wetlands becomes point of contention
It was in June last year,
that the very first issue raised in this column was the proposed
draining of wetlands located in the Etawah and Mainpuri districts, as
part of an agricultural developmental project primarily aimed at
boosting productivity. All very well, except for the fact that these
wetlands happened to be a prime habitat that supported substantial
populations of large avian species like the Sarus and the Black-necked
Stork, as well as other aquatic fauna and flora.
According to warnings
sounded at that time by environmentalists and wildlife researchers
connected with this area, the devastation of these wetlands had the
potential of posing a serious threat to the survival of many of these
life forms, even to the extent of obliterating some species that did not
have the capacity to move away to other habitats.
Six months later, the
issue apparently seems to be unresolved. One does not doubt that the
authorities have taken serious note of the opinion of conservationists,
and one also concedes there must have been strong compulsions for the
implementation of the project to go on.
Be that as it may, I have
received one frantic SOS, which has been circulated just today by Harsh
Vardhan, a concerned bird lover from Jaipur. It is a high-pitched,
fervent appeal from someone who is obviously distressed by what is
happening in an area that is considered sacrosanct from the point of
view of wildlife conservation. Due to a time constraint, I am
unfortunately not in a position to verify many of the points raised by
Harsh Vardhan, but would nevertheless like to share his concern with
readers who may have some interest in this issue.
Following is a version of
the text of the appeal, which has been abridged for the purpose of
brevity, as well as to shear it of the element of seeming rhetoric that
tends to creep into such communiqués. "The Wetlands of Mainpuri and
Etawah are being sold to private people. For agricultural purposes, they
are being drained out. The priority is to honour a World Bank assisted
project in India's Uttar Pradesh. Obviously, the project meant to be
scrapped in favour of aquatic ecological gains to people, is now put on
"It is happening in
Mainpuri and Etawah districts of Uttar Pradesh. The bulldozers have been
rolled down the edges of the wetlands to implement the World Bank
project. Against the bulldozers stands a tiny paper, an order issued by
the District Magistrates of Mainpuri and Etawah which opposes the move
to drain off the wetlands.
"The District Magistrates
say 'no' to draining process, for they know the needs of people. It
looks like a piece of positive good news that the two District
Magistrates have realised (the) significance of maintaining wetlands.
Mr. Naresh Kumar, District Magistrate and Collector of Mainpuri, and Mr.
S.P. Goyal, District Magistrate and Collector of Etawah, deserve
congratulations. Well done, the Indian community needs more such young
IAS decision makers.
"Mr. R.L. Singh, Chief
Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh, has already issued necessary orders to
support the large wetlands in these two districts in order to ensure
sustainable conditions for the Indian Sarus Cranes, Black-necked Storks
and other avifauna supported therein. He has a viable proposal to
develop a Sanctuary for Indian Sarus Cranes in one of the wetlands
facing threat from draining.
"Who will succeed? As
things stand on 7 January 2002 in these northern Indo-Gangetic plains of
India, the wetlands are in danger of losing their water within few
weeks! So, people should be ready to face colossal loss of aquatic
ecology, birds, animals and the consequent benefits to agricultural
practices and life system for the rural communities. It will be a
long-term loss in face of short-term gains. The gainers shall be few.
Losers will be many, and for a long time.
"Dear citizens, can you
do some thing? BC Chaudhary, Principal Scientist stationed at Wildlife
Institute of India, Dehradun, today needs your help. Gopi Sundar,
working at Etawah for WII, appeals to you to stand in favour of
wetlands. Rise up folks. It is time to act".