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Wetlands Wastelands

In the light of the published set of articles in the Review of Environment and ­Development (EPW, 5 August 2017), co-relating environment and development intrinsically, while simultaneously reviewing their interdependence, there still exist certain ambiguities that I would like to address. These additions are especially pertaining to the article “Governance of Waste” by Vinay Gidwani and Julia Corwin on waste management policy, and the role of informal sector waste reduction units.

In the light of the published set of articles in the Review of Environment and ­Development (EPW, 5 August 2017), co-relating environment and development intrinsically, while simultaneously reviewing their interdependence, there still exist certain ambiguities that I would like to address. These additions are especially pertaining to the article “Governance of Waste” by Vinay Gidwani and Julia Corwin on waste management policy, and the role of informal sector waste reduction units.

The East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) are located around the eastern fringes of Kolkata city between the Salt Lake township on the one side, and the newly popularised townships at Rajarhat on the other. The EKW forms one of the largest assemblages of sewage-fed fish ponds situated between 22°27’00”N and 88°27’00”E, and is spread over an area of approximately 12,000 hectares. It is comprised of over 250 sewage-fed fisheries, distributed across the districts of South and North 24 Parganas covering a total of 37 mouzas (administrative districts). Moreover, there also exist a few small- to medium-scale agricultural plots and solid waste farms.

The EKW boasts of the world’s largest waste water-fed aquaculture system that treats sewerage sent to the wetlands through solar purification followed by natural oxidation. Through this process, the water becomes conducive for algal and plankton growth which are the primary feed of fishes. On 19 August 2002, the EKW was included in the Ramsar list of “Wetlands of International Importance” and was described as “one of the rare examples of environmental protection and development management.” This system has been so effective that Kolkata was not even provided funds for setting up conventional sewage treatment plant under the Ganga Action Plan.

However, due to excessive pressure from politically-backed real estate agencies, plight of urbanisation, significant change in the quality and quantity of the solid waste, as well as human neglect, this site is under threat from various quarters. This is neither a case of “environment of development,” nor of “environment in development.” This is a case of development against environment and there ­exists no legitimate counter-narrative.

Ayush Banerjee

Kolkata

Updated On : 1st Sep, 2017

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