Disaster, foretold

The news:

A water vessel carrying 1,235 tonnes of coals has sunk in the Sundarbans’ Shela River after its bottom was ruptured.

So? So, this: it piles tragedy on tragedy in a fragile, precious ecosystem. For those interested:
In late 2014, photo-journalist Arati Kumar-Rao had pointed to the unhindered shipping in this protected site, and predicted disaster. In early 2015, she went back to the Sunderbans and filed a series of reports on a disaster that unfolded exactly as she had predicted. Read:
The story of a hazardous clean up, and a stunning cover up.
The story of a UN “study” that saw precisely what it was supposed to see: no evil.
Five months later the government — having learnt nothing from the disaster — decided to let ships ply along the Sela again.
There is much more of Arati Kumar-Rao’s coverage, which received wide international notice at the time, here: (Scroll down to the section titled Estuaries: The Endangered Sunderbans).
Update: 12.30 PM: Shipping along the Sela has been banned again. So the playbook is still in use: Ban as soon as disaster strikes, wait for the fuss to die down, then quietly revoke the ban and carry on as usual.



“Delhi’s river, that mangy, smelly, desperate thing…”

Mitali Saran in acerbic voice on Art of Living’s birthday bash:

Delhi’s river — that mangy, smelly, desperate thing — has once more been thrown under the bus by a happy godman backed by a godman-happy government.

The art of causing floods

A timely — or maybe not timely, since the ship seems to have upped anchor — warning for Delhi:

An NGT-appointed panel in its report has mentioned, “The entire area of the floodplain between River Yamuna and DND Flyover has been levelled flat and on the western side of the river — 50 to 60 hectares of floodplain have been completely destroyed. Natural vegetation comprising reeds, shrubs, trees etc has been completely removed. A large number of birds and other natural life on the floodplain have vanished.”

Manoj Misra, convener, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, an NGO working for the restoration of the River Yamuna, said: “Vegetation on the soil is extremely important, especially on floodplains. The ground vegetation is the lifeline of floodplains. Absence of it will certainly cause floods. One won’t be surprised if the low-lying areas of east Delhi get flooded or even a larger area.”

How flood will be caused?

– The levelling and compacting of the floodplain would reduce its water absorbing capacity by 35 to 40 percent. As a result, the rest 60 percent of water will run off to adjoining low areas causing flood.
– The bush, reeds, shrubs, marsh etc helps in water-absorption due to the roots. As this vegetation has its own absorptive capacity, the flood situation will aggravate.
– Groundwater recharging capacity will drastically decrease.
– If heavy rain takes place, the extra water will flow into the residential areas.

From a FirstPost piece on Art of Living’s upcoming World Culture Festival.