Published: Thursday 15 March 2001

Trampling over a national park

The government of Andhra Pradesh, known for its 'clean and green' programmes, is causing irreparable damage to the greenery of Hyderabad through its lopsided policies. About 12.14 hectare of dense vegetation is being destroyed in the 158 hectare Kasu Brahmanand Reddy National Park in the city. This is being done, purportedly, to widen roads. But the roads are already broad in that locality.

The government is also constructing a path in the park for a handful of morning walkers by spending huge amount of public money. It also plans to create ponds and gardens to beautify the park. Any one who takes a look at the activity near the park can easily make out how lopsided the priorities of the government are. The entire exercise is a bonanza for contractors. How can the government spend crores of public money (much of which might have been borrowed from the World Bank) for the benefit of a handful of morning walkers at the cost of a rich natural treasure like a national park?

It is unbelievable that the government, on one hand, cannot pay the salaries of thousands of its teachers and lecturers while, on the other hand, it has money to launder away.

Birds and wildlife have disappeared from the park because of the rising levels of noise, pollution and human interference. Destruction of dense greenery over 12.14 hectare around the park, removal of the existing compound wall and construction of a new one inside the park, blasting of rocks and other road construction activities have sounded the death knell for many animals in the park.

Hundreds of neem, tamarind and mango trees have been felled. The number of peacocks is estimated to have come down to 50 or so from about 300 counted a few years ago.

The state government is blatantly violating the Supreme Court judgement in December 1996 that laid down that forestland should not be used for non-forest purposes. Moreover, permission from the Union government is necessary for converting a national park to anything else. Will the Union government clarify whether it has given permission to the Andhra Pradesh government for reducing the area of the Kasu Brahmanand Reddy National Park?...

Clean up the canals

The Adiganga Paribesh Suraksha Committee (apsc), comprising environmentalists, technologists, engineers and doctors, is a pressure group working for clean environment.

We, at apsc, believe that immediate dredging and desilting of Adiganga, which is also known as Tolly's Nullah, is essential to save Kolkata from epidemics like cholera, malaria, jaundice and other diseases. The nullah was last dredged 225 years ago in 1775 by Major William Tolly of East India Company. Since then, it has been severely polluted and heavily silted while carrying the city's waste for over two centuries now.

Matters came to a head during the recent high tides when parts of south and north Kolkata were flooded with water from the Hooghly. The city is surrounded by different canals, including the Tolly's Nullah, which are connected to the river. During high tide water from the Hooghly spilled into the canals, which in turn, overflowed and flooded the streets . If all the canals are desilted and their beds cleared so that these are at least 38 centimetre (cm) in depth and 25 cm in width, then the city will be spared of the deluges during high tide or heavy rains. The civic authorities should, hence, take immediate steps to dredge and desilt the canals.

A public interest litigation filed by a retired office superintendent of customs, Rebati Ranjan Bhattacharya, in the Calcutta High Court is pending which blames the state government for not taking adequate measures to desilt and dredge the canals.

A high-powered committee was constituted under the chairmanship of the chief secretary of the government of West Bengal to monitor the cleaning of the canals that included creating diversion outlets for water, eviction of encroachers on the banks of the canal, dredging and desilting, compensation for rehabilitation of oustees and water sanitation.

The main obstacle in dredging the canal lies in ousting the thousands of encroachers who have built their shanties along the banks of the nullah. The apsc believes that since the '70s different political parties have built vote banks by giving right to the encroachers to occupy the land on both the banks of Tolly's Nullah and this act of theirs has now turned into a major headache.

The apsc appeals to all political parties to come forward immediately for cleaning the Adiganga, leaving aside their political interest and perform their duty to the citizens....

Decentralising sewer system

I have read with interest articles on cleaning of polluted rivers. I do not understand why one should pollute something and then try to clean it up. It is something akin to throwing dirt on a street and then trying to clean it by employing sweepers.

People, today, no longer follow the basic principle of marking a territory where a community can live in harmony with nature without degrading the environment. The territory should provide the products required for living and is able to absorb the by-products of the community. If the size of the community grows beyond the sustainable limit of the territory, some inhabitants of the community migrate to a new territory. If they continue to live in the same territory then either they are forced to abandon the territory or they perish. But due to technological advances, the increasing size of the community has been accommodated within the territory but the byproducts have been drained thoughtlessly into the water bodies without adequate treatment.

Poor sewerage systems have further compounded the problem causing leaks that pollute the aquifers in addition to the water supply system. I do not understand why the government is spending millions on cleaning the rivers instead of treating the pollutants at source either on an individual level or a local level. The individual houseowner or a group of houseowners may be made responsible for proper maintenance of the system. For this, advanced treatment technologies should be adopted to clean effluents which may be used to recharge the groundwater aquifer.

The water supply system should also be decentralised. Water should be drawn through borewells or shallow wells which should be treated to potable grade. Those who can afford it can have their own mini water treatment facilities to meet their requirements. For others, water can be treated and supplied for small groups of houses by having a number of such plants installed throughout towns and cities. Unless the water supply and sanitation system is decentralised, it will not be possible to keep rivers clean. A similar approach has to be adopted for solid waste and industrial waste. Projects should be executed by non-governmental organisations with the participation of the beneficiaries. It is suggested that educational research institutions like iit and government supported organisations should take up projects for developing mini sewage treatment plants to suit small households, housing colonies and small communities so that the treatments can be decentralised....

Helping hand for quake victims

I wish to express my deep sadness and solidarity to all of you for the terrible earthquake that devastated the land, people and all living beings in Gujarat on January 26 this year. It is terrible to think of all the dead people, of all buried alive and of the future of those who survived. Be sure that all Italian people here feel very sad and keep themselves informed about the affected people.

I would have liked to rush to Gujarat and scavenge with my own hands. But I know that is not necessary. I just wonder if there are enough dogs out there for dogs are very useful in locating humans trapped under the huge debris. They have been successfully used in Italy and Greece.

I hope in future buildings will be built more carefully. We would like to be useful in a small way. Do you know of a good local panchayat in Gujarat that can be financially helped? We could launch an appeal in Italy. We want to support some local community directly or through you....

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