Packed with Pawar
Sir ' The jury is still out on Maharashtra. But from the direction the winds are blowing in, it seems pretty certain that Maharashtra may once again have to see the face of a smiling chief minister. But a question nags. Why does Sharad Pawar seem to be so tamely giving in to the Congress punches when he put up such a fight for the presidency of a sporting organization' Has that battle sapped his energy for the cutting-edge manipulations he is so famous for' Perhaps not. Pawar is an ace politician who can see miles ahead of his squabbling Maratha brotherhood. He knows that smiles in the Congress camp may bring him more smiles in return. If one is not raving mad, one may even predict with some confidence that the Maratha hero now probably has his sights trained on the home portfolio in return for the Maharashtra crown. A fair square-cut really!
J. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir ' It was shocking to read 'Taking over tide country' (Oct 10). Apart from the havoc the Sahara project will wreak on the fragile environment of the Sunderbans, it might annihilate the majestic Royal Bengal tiger in its last bastion. Already, the forests are depleted, creating a tremendous pressure on the animals. Any further reduction in forest cover will bring them in greater conflict with humans and result in their destruction.
I am not a scientist or a wildlife expert, but even as a housewife I am aware of how animals have disappeared within a span of 15 years from areas where they were once abundant. Jackals howling in the night was part of the aura of the winter months in Dehra Dun's Clement Town. Leopards appeared now and then to lift dogs from the area. There were lesser animals like the hare in the hedges. Barking deer were a common sight. Occasionally, elephants visited the area. These have all gone, thanks to our frenetic activities. Even the exotic birds which frequented the gardens have moved away and the migratory birds don't visit the jheel in the area any more.
The Sunderbans is a World Heritage site with its mangrove forests. It is breeding area of our favourite koi and hilsa. It is beyond my comprehension why the government of West Bengal is allowing this project to come up. But then wildlife and flora do not translate into votes.
Reyhan Datta, Dehra Dun
Sir ' The duplicity of both the Left Front government and the Sahara Group is astounding. The company has published in great detail news of the luxury facilities that will be made available to the rich ' air-conditioned comfort, helipads, swimming pools, cruises and restaurants. Has it made any mention of its procedure of waste disposal' How is it going to handle 1,500 people a day and still ensure that this will not disturb wildlife'
The sheer presence of so many people will be the source of enormous pollution. Eco-tourism is aimed at developing a region without disturbing it in any way. Eco-tourists are meant to see and experience a region, not to relax in the lap of luxury. Sahara is brazenly corrupting the term. It would not be surprising, if, after establishing its 'resort', Sahara promotes discreet hunts as an additional attraction for the visitors.
Arun Athmanathan, Guwahati
Sir ' The article, 'Taking over tide country', is a grim reminder that greed and the drive for profit surpass all environmental concerns. Sahara may claim that their intention is not to defile the already-ravished biodiversity of the Sunderbans. But it has only one purpose in mind, and that is profit. Or else, why would it plan to cater to the high-end domestic and foreign tourists' Unfortunately, governments both at the state and the Centre are in league with them. Sahara must be prevented, by all means, from destroying the sensitive ecology of the Sunderbans. If the West Bengal government does not revoke its decision to allow the company to go ahead with its plans, it will be setting a dangerous precedent for other vested interests who may similarly try to 'promote' eco-tourism.
Nelson A. Petrie, Siliguri
Sir ' The West Bengal government goes gaga everytime there is a prospect of foreign or domestic investment in the state. Mere signing of memoranda of understanding, which signifies nothing tangible in most cases, is made into major media events. In this scenario, the secrecy associated with the Sahara Sunderbans Project is bizarre. It gives rise to a clawing suspicion of an impending environmental disaster. That is probably why Sahara is so keen to progress silently, without letting the people, and even peoples' representatives, know about the project.
The promise of doing all this for the economic well-being of the local population seems to be a red herring as the project will have no link with the local economy. All the requirements of the tourists will be procured from beyond the region and the tourists will not be allowed to interact with the local population. A few of them may, at best, be employed for menial jobs in the cottages for their upkeep so long as it is cost-effective to the company.
Tapan Pal, Batanagar