Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Destruction of ecology
I have written (e.g. here and here) about some of the fundamental problems defining the city of Calcutta and threatening the future of the city. Long ago I had the good fortune of learning about the geo-hydrological aspects of the way the metropolis was growing from Subrata Sinha, a former deputy director general of the Geological Survey of India.
So I was glad to see an article by him in yesterday’s Statesman, on this very subject, and in the context of what’s happening right now. As a citizen of Calcutta, I am deeply disturbed by what he says.
Subrata Sinha writes:
Globally, prime farmlands are virtually categorised as Endangered Species. The Singur zone falls precisely in that category. After tampering with it, the West Bengal government is now out to pursue its eco-demolition agenda further. It has gifted the stretch from just beyond Rajarhat down to Baruipur-Kulpi within the Sundarbans deltaic wetlands zone, to construct a major N-S highway and develop a Special Economic Zone with Kulpi Port and ancillary hubs. This will destroy the residual wetlands ~ the lifeline of Calcutta and bulk of the sub-continental watershed.
The Calcutta wetlands form part of the deltaic region of the geo-hydrologically connected Ganga-Hugli-Meghna-Brahamputra river systems and part of the trans-national watershed comprising the Himalayan mountains. The shareholders mainly include India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Unfortunately, the wetlands have been severely affected by urban encroachment; largely crippling their functions.
The urbanisation of Rajarhat New Town was the first item on this despicable agenda. Contrary to its erroneous depictions as non-wetland, it is a swampy marshland, within the wetland definition ambit. Situated near the northern headlands of the deltaic region and close to the recharge zone for the deeper Calcutta aquifers it falls directly in the path of the prolific monsoon overland flow from the upslope regions of the river basin. Moreover, numerous rivulets of the shared Indo-Bangladesh deltaic drainage system originate here. Adjuncts of intensive urbanisation (like roads, buildings) will act as a wall across the flow route, with the runoff getting diverted towards Bangladesh and core Calcutta, already plagued by flooding and drainage congestion. It will also affect the “Sunderbans” multifunctional ecosystem that forms the vital sea-face for most of sub-continental watershed.
As its main shareholder India cannot shirk the responsibility of maintaining geo-hydrological equilibrium within the watershed. The consequences of implementing these projects shall thus spell disaster.
Tragically, in its zeal to promote the interests of the corporate and affluent sectors, the State is sacrificing its natural bounties and welfare of the overwhelming rural majority. Calcutta will be the proverbial sacrificial goat!
Read the full article here.
Image: Landsat image of metropolitan Calcutta region.