Kidney of Kolkata at Danger – East Kolkata Wetlands Encroachment will be fatal
By Suman Munshi,
Kolkata,5 October 2021
“Kolkata has forgotten the contribution of the man who saved the Kidney of City of Joy, Late Shri Dhrubajyoti Ghosh.“
The precursor to this article is “Man-made Flood in Kolkata”. if you need to know the truth remove party colored lens and think like an analyst. What Late Shri Dhrubajyoti Ghosh thought in the eighties we failed to understand.
Why suddenly Kolkata is becoming like Venice of East in a day or two showers of rain? Please do not even think to stand by the leaders who fail to lead by quality.
We are media at door tried to analyze the matter from the man’s work who had the best idea about it.
Dhrubajyoti Ghosh (1947–February 16, 2018) was a UN Global 500 laureate, special advisor on agricultural ecosystems, part of the Commission on Ecosystem Management, and regional chair for South Asia of the IUCN. He is most credited for devoting his life to the survival of the East Kolkata Wetlands, naming it, and creating the World’s only fully functioning organic sewage management system.
He attended the University of Calcutta in West Bengal, India, and was the first engineer of the university to graduate with a Ph.D. in ecology. He went on to become a sanitation engineer for the West Bengal government, which brought the issues of the Kolkata Wetlands to his sites.
Advocating nature-based solutions, Ghosh’s work in the East Kolkata Wetlands showed it could be used for free-of-charge sewage work, fertile aquatic gardens and fisheries, and flood defenses with minimal harm to the environment.
Using his position in Ramsar, he secured the protection of the wetlands under the Ramsar Convention. This land soon became the world’s only fully functional organic sewage management system, treating 750 million litres/day, using solar UV radiation to purify canals leading into the wetlands. The wetlands are now under threat by developers, which Ghosh constantly resisted during his life. His main complaint on the upkeep of this project is that there is no large-scale management or municipal ownership of the system to keep quality control, and there is currently no plans to change that.
His work included being chief of the Department of Environment of the Government of West Bengal, member of the board of trustees of the India Worldwide Fund for Nature, a fellow of the National Institute of Sciences within the Government of India, member of the management board of the Ramsar Convention, and a member of the National Wetland Committee.
He died in Kolkata on February 16, 2018. A legend passed away with no public ripple. As always, Bengalis neglected their heritage and heroes.
The Mystery was more than a plot for the suspense thriller. Because even thirty years ago, the whole thing was shrouded in mystery. What kind of mystery? A strange mystery of nature! Geographically, Kolkata is one of the lowest cities in entire India. Hardly it will be four or five meters from sea level! The Ganges to the west of Calcutta, but the land, slide towards the east. The city generates about 800 million liters of liquid waste every day, a daunting task for any sewerage treatment plant. Sewage plants are being built in various major cities of the world at a cost of crores of rupees to treat this amount of waste. There is no such ‘plant’ in Kolkata. And it was never!!!. The city is also in a very low basin. Even then, there are no reports of such large-scale pollution in dirty water or water-borne disease. So where does that so much dirty water go?
The whole question above is not of the present, but of the past. The time is the eighties. Here comes the man Late Shri Dhruvajyoti Ghosh. The question was swirling in the head of this government official. Working as an Engineer in the state government by profession studied at Calcutta University in Engineering but done his Ph.D. in Ecology. It was the time when first time Bengal was shifted to Communist Left Front government.
Dhruvajyoti Babu went down to find the answer to this question under Government Order. Searched across the possible places for the answer. To understand the working of the sewage plant, he also visited the ‘Dadar Sewage Plant’ the then Bombay, now called Mumbai.
But nothing was known anywhere and no significant gain in the process of knowledge acquisition. No one in Kolkata knows where Kolkata’s wastewater is drained. No one knows where that water goes. In Kolkata, where billions of rupees are spent on drainage, the water seems to vanish like magic.
At last, the magic happened. One day, he accidentally started walking along with the sewers and canals. Want to see where the drains go! While searching for this answer, Dhruvajyoti Babu appeared in this wetland on the eastern edge of the then Calcutta, now Kolkata. Apparently, it seems that wetlands — in our language, ‘Salt Veri’ are of no use as thought. At that time, those areas were completely underdeveloped and there were no roads at all.
But there Dhruvajyoti Babu started experimenting. Seeing the results, it is a state of ‘eye-catching’. In an interview with the world publication “The Guardian”, Dhruvajyoti Babu explained as easily as water. “Wastewater is nothing, 95% water, and 5% germs. In this vast wetland, the germs of that wastewater become algae and fish food in the aquatic ecosystem. As a result, only in the natural ecosystem, with the help of ultraviolet rays of sunlight and the process of photosynthesis, the whole water is purified, creating a huge reservoir of fish — completely free without the slightest need for purification! ”. A natural wonder for the entire world.
In a single attempt, Dhruvajyoti Babu, like Columbus, rediscovered this vast swamp on the eastern edge of the city. Although he had to burn a lot of mid-night oil to believe the matter. By that time, the shallow swamp had been filled to the brim with salt lakes. The then Chief Minister of Bengal, Bidhan Chandra Roy, was far-sighted. However, he did not understand the importance of wetlands too. Or the pressure of refugees and the need for the planned city forced him to give go ahead with Salt Lake Plan.
However, about half of the salt lake was filled with silt from the Ganges, leaving the rest to Dr. Roy. The city was “designed” by the Dutch company Nedeco and a team of Yugoslav engineers.
Dr. Roy inspected the area with engineers from Europe, but the people’s CM Jyoti Basu had little patience to plan and develop the state immediate show to the gallery was much needed to give easy money to the people and comrades. As a result, the size of Salt Lake increased, uncontrolled urbanization began. Then the emphasis is on the Trinamool era. The Promoter Raj controls the power is matching the fins.
By 1990, Jyoti Babu’s government announced that a huge trading center would be set up to fill the wetlands. State government activist Dhruvajyoti Babu cannot oppose him even if he wants to as he was a government servant and have obeyed orders by the ministers. Therefore, on his undercover advice, a voluntary organization ‘PUBLIC’ (People United for Better Living in Calcutta) filed a case in the High Court. In 1992, the Calcutta High Court handed down one of the country’s first landmark eco-friendly rulings and the judges ruled that the wetland should not be filled, it should be protected.
“A win that should be every year celebrated throughout the World by nature lovers and Ecologists.”
Until then, Dhruvajyoti Ghosh has given his heart to the conservation of wetlands of Calcutta. He tried a lot to convince the government of this level. He went straight to the Chief Minister and started the argument as well. Legends go even like this one day, He even took the Chief Minister there. Then, to explain the importance of water and its natural purity, he drank a glass of water from the so-called sheep or dirty wetland in front of the Chief Minister to his shock. A definite case for stomach infection.
It was surprisingly revealed that nothing happened because of infection. Dhruvajyoti Babu shows that even if you drink that water, nothing will happen. That water is naturally pure.
Probably the wetland is the largest natural water purifier in the world!
Dhruvajyoti Ghosh loved to write. He started writing about the wetlands of East Calcutta in the international arena. The news reached the office of the International Wetlands Conservation Organization in Switzerland through his single-handed effort. Foreign experts came. Everyone was surprised. Because why India has such natural purification, there is no other in the whole world. Knowingly or unknowingly, the English chose to make their place the capital of their colony, with the Ganges flowing on one side and the natural wetlands on the other. If Kolkata Maidan is the lung of Kolkata, then this wetland will be its kidney. The good news finally came in 2002. The East Kolkata wetland is internationally recognized as the first Ramsar site in West Bengal.
What is the importance of the first Ramsar site in West Bengal?
East Calcutta Wetlands is a natural wonder. Not only that – not in Bengal or India, a rare wonder of the world! Very few people may know the name — ‘Ramsar Site! ’Is one of the world’s top international agreements on wetland conservation. Ramsar, a rugged small town on the shores of the Caspian Sea in the far north of Iran, is home to about 30,000 people. An international meeting on wetlands was held here in January 1971. Even then under Iran Shah. The Iranian government invited the meeting, which was initially scheduled to take place in another town on the Caspian Sea called Babolsar. But in April 1970, the decision was reversed and the meeting was moved to Ramsar, 165 kilometers west. Only 16 countries sent delegates, surprisingly, including India. The conference was started by the prince of Iran, Abdul Reza Pahlavi. An international pledge was signed at that conference on February 3 — the name of a city that no one even knew was renamed the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands. It currently has 161 members, headquartered in Switzerland.
Recognition did not stop the devastation. It has been going on for years. The livelihood of about thirty thousand people is directly involved with this wetland. Even today, we don’t know that most of the fish soup that we eat every day with hot rice comes from this sheep. In addition, this area provides a huge amount of vegetables. That is why Kolkata is the cheapest of all the metropolitan cities in India in terms of market cost. In addition, these wetlands provide a huge amount of oxygen. He returns the freshwater, fish, vegetables, oxygen with the contaminated water without spending a single penny.
And its most mysterious role is flood control. Most of the huge amount of water that could be swept away by Calcutta every day is drawn by this wetland, then the rest goes to the Vidyadhari river. So at least a decade ago, even if Mumbai or Chennai were regularly flooded, Kolkata would have survived.
Today, the entire system has broken down under the nexus of political mafias, greedy officials, and vultures of the real estate domain. Arbitrary promotion, wetland filling, urbanization is going on. Pollution is going on. As a result, this wetland in East Kolkata is facing an unprecedented crisis. If nature is a little angry, Kolkata is floating today. Bad water is spreading in the frozen water and water-borne and mosquito-borne diseases are on the rise. The hospital is overflowing with unknown fever. The drains are blocked. Ordinary people are getting electrocuted in the water. There are a lot of heavy topics in the daily evening chatterbox shows on the TV, when the lock gate will open, why the corporation is not running the pump, etc.
But the general public does not want to understand that none of these are permanent solutions. Politicians do not allow them to understand. Because if you understand their danger. The business of political leaders is to fill this wetland. What was in the old left era has increased in the present Trinamul era. The government has no precaution to look into the irreversible damage to the natural ecology of the East Kolkata Wetlands. A very popular remark, “if your people are sheep, it will get the government of Wolves”. Exactly that has happened to Kolkata.
Probably those who run the government do not have the knowledge to think so deeply. Or better said, no need to think. Whether it’s pumping out water or digging a road, laying pipes year after year, or relying on a lockgate these are all actually ‘dialysis’ methods. Kidney function is performed by artificially purifying the blood. The real ‘kidney’ of Kolkata is getting crippled by the accumulation of mud, contaminated and toxic chemicals. Regular grazing of Vidyadhari River is also an important way to get rid of this evil.
Late Dhrubajyoti Ghosh has continued the movement till death. He has written several books, including Ecology and Traditional Wetland Practice, which could be a practical user manual on the subject. The book is probably no longer available today. He explained the definition, use, spread, practical aspects, etc. of wetlands with great care. The book was published in 2005 by a leading Indian agronomist. He wrote – “… Like Amartya Sen’s ‘Welfare Economics’, this movement of Dhrubajyoti Ghosh can be called ‘Welfare Ecology’ …”. Author: Professor MS Swaminathan, the father of the Indian Green Revolution.
Unfortunately, Dhruvajyoti Ghosh, who has won many international honors, could no longer see the consequences of disobeying him. In 2018, he passed away.
This is high time that the suicidal tendency of so-called brilliantly idiotic intellectuals of Kolkata and Bengal must rise to the voice now or never to set the issue straight forever. Let’s save East Kolkata WetLand and name it after Late Dhrubajyoti Ghosh as “Late Dhrubajyoti Ghosh Eco Wetland”
Kolkata is dying and like Nero, the roads are playing Rabindra Sangeet perhaps Now the Time to call Gurudev and sing “Jodi tor Dak Shune Keu Na aase” means Walk alone on the road if no one is listening to your request.
- 2005 – Published the book Ecology and Traditional Wetland Practice: Lessons from Wastewater Utilisation in the East Calcutta Wetlands. In it he coined the term “cognitive apartheid”, meaning the systematic exclusion of the knowledge of the poor by the elite. ISBN 9788190128155
- August 2016 – First Indian to earn the Luc Hoffmann Award, credited for his work on East Kolkata Wetland.
- 2017 – Published the book The Trash Diggers, exploring the lives of individuals living in a dump site on the fringes of eastern Kolkata. ISBN 9780199474141
- This article was inspired by the article in Bengali by Souradeep Chatterjee: #পূর্বকোলকাতাররহস্যময়_জলাভূমি লেখক:সৌরদীপ চ্যাটার্জী