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Conserving the East Kolkata Wetlands: As if an unknown ecosystem

Dhrubajyoti Ghosh

Within the East Kolkata Wetlands, a Ramsar site and recently flagged as one of the two most outstanding wetlands in the world for managing wastewater, we had one of the most flourishing mouza (revenue village) named Bhagabanpur. In 2002, Bhagabanpur had 88 per cent of its area covered with waterbody. This was the year in which East Kolkata Wetlands was declared as a Ramsar site and it became a protected wetland. After 14 years, in 2016 this area of waterbodies has come down to 19 per cent. The work was carried out by a non-profit, SCOPE [1] which is active in the wetland area and the researchers were Dhruba Das Gupta, Subhamita Chaudhuri and Sudeshna Ghosh. The first copy was placed for the perusal of the state environment secretary and thereafter it has reached the shores of many countries of the world, rightfully. Environment minister of the state has been continuously saying that the government will not allow even a single waterbody within the East Kolkata Wetlands area to be filled up.

                                                                        Can we call this withering away of the state?

                                                                                                                        *******

The city of Kolkata has one thing in striking abundance. These are billboards or signboards, glow signs and such creative contraptions. See a passenger shelter, and right above a billboard reminds you that you are looking at a passenger shelter, lest you think it is some other structure like a space for a street food vendor. Not just this. You can find a larger billboard which mentions the name of the people’s representative with glittering prominence, whose turn of good thinking could create such glorious example of public service! And yet there is not one billboard that indicates the presence of this global pride point – the East Kolkata Wetlands.

                                                                        Can we call this withering away of the state?

                                                                                                                        *******
But billboards and signboards are there in plenty, very much within the protected area of the East Kolkata Wetlands. These billboards are forthright information for interested persons to buy plots of land/ flats or buy building materials as required. A few of them, as of today, read thus:
Sai Garden – Plots available (Dream Plot in your city within your Budget) – 033 24264853/ 9874334752; Maa Manasha Enterprise - Bricks, Sand, Stone Cheap (sic), White Sand, Rabis (sic) and Soilt (sic) Goods Suppliers – 9883117621 / 9903639703; Orchid Developer (Building Construction and all kind of Land Purchasing and Selling) 9836632471/ 9831946692/ 68888234.

                                                                        Can we call this withering away of the state?

                                                                                                                        *******

Within East Kolkata Wetlands, in the sensitive locations, where many wetlands have been lovingly converted into buildings or saleable plots, during most of the time after the Sun slides west, one can see a number of interesting joints, strategically situated. Bamboo structures mostly, least impressive otherwise, and interested persons keep gathering here. These are the places where the future land use in the East Kolkata Wetlands are more intensely and imaginatively discussed than any research institutions, university departments, non-profit organisations or places of governance anywhere in the world.

                                                                                Can we call this withering away of the state?

jolabhumi

Notes:
1. Society for Creative Opportunities and Participatory Ecosystems, a Kolkata-based organisation

Reference:
Dhruba Das Gupta, Subhamita Chaudhuri and Sudeshna Ghosh (2017). Not a Single Bill Board: The Shifting Priority in Land Use within the Protected Wetlands to the East of Kolkata, Kolkata: SCOPE

Frontier
Apr 25, 2017


Dhrubajyoti Ghosh may be contacted at ghoshdj.in@gmail.com

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