By the people


Open letter to the
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Khandwa,Catching every droplet
The lost pond


From the courtroom
Face to face
Destroy, then revive


Woman power
Paying up
A tiny oasis in Uttar Pradesh
CII’s water meet
Rotary’s initiative
Brick by brick
Nurturing the future
CSE’s pilgrims in Madhya Pradesh
Taking initiative
Experiments with water


Pure rain
In a great hurry!


As priceless as amrit
Reviving pynes


D V Subramanaian
Ashutosh Agnihotri


Rain centre inaugurated
The Alacrity cycle
Porous roads
Plumbers’ meet
Women’s meet


Making a mark in Laburnam


Pollutants to bind roads
Make your own rain gauge
Smart farming tool
Techno tit bits















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Vol. 4                                     No. 4               August-September  2002

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Final verdict

On August 2, the Gujarat High Court (HC) ordered the concerned state agencies to notify and revive all the lakes in the state. While lifting the ban imposed by their last interim order, the HC entrusted the task of deciding the no construction zones near the waterbody to the civic authorities. A‘Water Resources Council’ headed by the chief minister will oversee the implementation. This is the final verdict on the case going on for past two years for the protection of Chandola Lake in Ahmedabad. The ruling has raised doubts. As the executive has been given the entire responsibility, which has never been proactive on this front.

On going battle

The PIL fought by Tapas, a New Delhi-based non-governmental, for the past two years continues to create controversies. On August 13, the court issued four orders: The Archeological Survey of India was asked to revive 11 waterbodies within a month; While restraining the Public Works Department, the court has asked them to find ways of revive marshes that they have filled up with flying ash; revive Neela Huaj, a waterbody in Vasant Kunj; Enquired about the status of 40 ponds to be developed for tourism.

Face to face

These are excerpts from an interview with Mohit Ray, co-founder of Vasundhara, a self-funded citizens group, actively involved in the protection of urban and semi-urban waterbodies in and around Kolkata. For details: www.vasundhara.cjb.net

Q What are the major constraints in the protection of urban waterbodies in and around Kolkata?
A Lack of reliable information on the actual number of waterbodies, its users, water quality etc, crop up as a major constraint. Non-existent urban planning and a strong nexus between builders and politicians are a major threat for the citizen’s group fighting for their protection.

Q With growing urbanisation, is it feasible to protect these waterbodies?
AYes. Several community organisations are actively conserving these waterbodies without any external funding. Many of them are extensively used for fish farming thus, providing livelihood and employment. Some waterbodies are linked with temples, fairs – constituting an important part of local cultural milieu. They keep the temperature low, while recharging the groundwater. Vasundhara has been a part of this movement by providing technical guidance and information dissemination. We are not only publishing Annual Environmental Survey of Kolkata but have developed a laboratory – ensuring easy accessibility and relatively low rates.

Q Does the recent announcement by the chief minister to frame an umbrella act for the protection of urban waterbodiies hold any weight?
A The debate has been buried for the time being. As crore of rupees are involved in filling up of these waterbodies, the problem will persist. Last year, the Chairman of Dumdum Municipality was murdered on this issue. He was a leading member of the ruling party. Moreover, I think policy and actual implementation of laws are two separate matters.

Q Can National Lake’s Conservation Policy effectively addresses this issue?
A The urban and semi-urban waterbodies are different from the national lakes. Thus, the policies should also be different.

Q Why is filing public interest litigation for the protection of urban waterbodies, a popular readdressal tool?
A Courts come into the picture when executives fail to do their duties. In West Bengal, filling up waterbodies is already banned, under Inland Fisheries Act. But its effective implementation needs active participation from the people and government. On June 16, Vasundhara along with several pond committees celebrated wetland day and it was heartening to see that after a few days one committee came to us for consultation. On July 28, they organised a mass meeting, where a number of such committees were present. It is a new and encouraging development. I am convinced that people’s participation is a extremely powerful tool.

Destroy, then revive

This seems to be the guiding principle behind the US government’s plans of protecting wetlands. Everglades extending from the Kissimmee chain of lakes to Florida Bay, is one stark example. The problem started as early as 1880s, which has only strengthened over the years – disrupting the water flow. Several federal projects in the past 54 years have failed to make any significant dent. Today, the major threat to Everglades is from unabated limestone mining, which feeds 50 per cent of Florida’s construction industry.

In 2000, the federal government launched the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, worth US $ eight billion to restore the ecosystem and meet south Florida’s water needs for the next 50 years. Under pressure from the politically powerful mining companies, the plan allows mining in another 21,000 acres on the western edges of Everglades for the next 35 years. After that, government plans to spend US $ one billion to convert it into water reservoirs. The Army Corps of Engineers, agency in charge for wetland protection, is quiet. "There is no way to make up for the deep holes left that are biologically unproductive and functionally impaired", says the local officials.

"Rock is money", said senior representative from Riker, one of the three companies operating in the area. "It would be nice if it wasn’t under Everglades, but we go where the rock is." It appears, that the government too, is ready to follow them.

Copyright 2002 Centre for Science and Environment