Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ecology of Orissa On The Edge:An analysis

The gravity of natural disasters has been compounded by man's greed and his systematic interference with Nature. May be its Orissa cyclone nine years before or the environmental damage in western part.
I thought the super cyclone was a man made one……man-made disasters were being fobbed off as natural disasters. The gravity of these "natural disasters" has been compounded by man's greed and his systematic, sustained interference with nature.
Let me put some point with analysis. There is a plant called mangrove plant which is generally found in Sundarban region of west Bengal region… Its specialty is that a mangrove forest can have the potentialities to distract the direction of upcoming cyclone. Generally a single mangrove plant have the peculiar and unique characteristics of absorbing salts from the soil…..so called Heliophilic or salt loving………….
Such a mangrove forest was there long years in when Paradip (the port town) near vicinity of capital city Bhubaneswar. Paradip Port, and the areas surrounding it, were once rich mangrove forests. When the Paradip Phosphate Limited was proposed by Government, there was a huge protest by environmentalist on behalf of these Mangrove forest….but in the end PPL was installed by sacrificing the huge natural resource of Mangrove forest. Starting of prawn and shrimp farms also another cause of this uprooting of Mangroves.
In the Orissa cyclone, the maximum damage was caused in coastal areas where the mangroves had been uprooted for starting prawn and shrimp farms. In fact, the Orissa government has been repeatedly warned of the ecological hazards of removing the protective covering of the mangroves for the prawn farms. The Bhitarkanika stretch of the Orissa coastline was saved because the mangroves were still intact. In fact about 10 per cent of the mangroves forests are being cut every year.
Let’s come to western Orissa….the region of Sambalpur, Jharsuguda and Sundargarh Districts.With thousands of trees destroyed in these areas due to mushrooming of sponge iron, steels and aluminum plants, every subsequent year is likely to be scorching. For the last 10 years, a large number of heat stroke deaths have been reported from Orissa.

Large scale deforestation has aggravated flooding. Displaced people are invariably settled in forests and this further denudes the encroached forestlands. Rocks are being pulled out of riverbeds and fragile hills without a thought to what the consequences would be. The proposed Indian and foreign mining projects in western Orissa are expected to pollute 700 streams and threaten the survival of the local tribal people. We are laying the foundation for an erosion - a devastation that could be 20 times more serious.While there is a great deal of attention at the time of the disaster, very little work is done between the disasters - though they come in regular cycles. Between one drought and the next, we do not work on systems of water harvesting. Mining leaves the forested areas ravaged and scarred but these wounds of nature are not treated or filled up.
Annually 24 million people are affected by disasters in India, 5,116 people die and the economic loss has been computed at $1,883.9 million. Natural disasters like floods affect 11.2 per cent of the land; drought affects 28 per cent of the land; cyclones - a 7,516 km long vulnerable coastline and earthquakes 57 per cent of the land.
In Saurashtra, the mining of natural aquifers of limestone for the cement industries has resulted in the ingress of saline desertification into the fertile ecosystem. In the Western Ghat watershed of Tungabhadra, iron ore mining has created drought by reducing base flows and increasing silt load on rivers. In Cherrapunji, once the wettest place on earth, the mixed natural forests in the upper catchment have been destroyed. Most of the 1,200 cm of annual rainfall runs off causing floods in Bangladesh. After the monsoon, the springs and rivers dry up - and there is drought.
Nineteen per cent of India's total area, with 12 per cent of its total population is considered drought-prone. Critical changes in agricultural practices have ushered in intensive irrigation and promoted water hungry crops. This has phased out traditional crop mixes with inherent drought-proofing mechanisms to survive fluctuations in rainfall.
In fact environmental degradation impoverishes the people it touches and forces migration, frequently sparking off conflict between the displaced people and the host communities. The impoverished poor and the landless also put more pressure on natural resources for their survival.
"Pollution and its disastrous impact are closely linked with equity." Most people who suffer the impact of vehicular pollution do not own motor vehicles and those who are forced to use untreated foul swelling water do not have access to the sewers that pollute the rivers.

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