ADI GANGA & WETLANDS : Heal the broken link for a flood resilient Kolkata

ADI GANGA & WETLANDS : Heal the broken link for a flood resilient Kolkata

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Adiganga and the wetlands; we are near the point where the loss of little more will trigger a final countdown; Kolkata stands third in the world flood risk, as revealed in studies by the World Bank and University of Leeds.

South Asian Forum for Environment, SAFE in collaboration with U.S. Consulate General, Kolkata and International Water management Institute, IWMI on 28th Feb, 2017, at American center, Kolkata organized a symposium to interweave the broken link between Adiganga and Wetlands for a flood resilient Kolkata.

Mr. Cory. D. Wilcox, Senior management Officer,
U.S. Consulate, Dr. Priyanie Amarsinghee, Senior
Researcher: Hydrology & Wetlands, IWMI, Mr. Subhas Datta, Environmentalist & Reformist, Mr. Kallol Basu, Advocate, National Green Tribunal, NGT, Mr. Tapas Kr Mandal, Nodal Officer, Tolly's Nullah Project, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, KMC, and Dr. Dipayan Dey, Chair SAFE, with conscious citizens joined to interweave the save action plan from scientific, legal, social, and administrative viewpoints.

Mr. Cory. D. Wilcox, Senior management Officer, U.S. Consulate in his welcome speech appealed to the citizens to act for conservation of Adi ganga and Wetlands. He said, “I grew up in rainforest, South Eastern Alaska, and there it rained every day, and despite strict environmental guidelines there have been some issues, and I know problems are felt keenly in wetlands, be in Kolkata or US. He further added, “We have to learn to live in harmony with wetlands, and need to conserve it for us”.

Dr Dipayan Dey, Chair, SAFE in his discussion focused on the diminishing flood resilience efficacy of Kolkata city due to the vanishing wetlands and the main river of the city, the Adi

Ganga, which now flows much below the environmental volume and is overloaded and choked with solid waste and untreated sewage. He mentioned, “Kolkata has lost 53% wetlands in the last one decade and the southeastwardly growing sprawl of the city, where land subsidence is higher, will have the maximum threat of flood if wetlands are not conserved and drainage system scientifically revamped. 100mms of rainfall in one day shall bring 60% of Kolkata water logged that is the level of risk if the wetlands and Adi Ganga are not functional”.

Dr Priyanie Amerasinghee, emphasized on the conservation of wetlands as the hydrodynamic

stability of the city depends largely on wetlands. She mentioned about the importance of environmental flow regulation that keeps the wetlands alive. In this regard she endorsed the significance of Adi ganga which used to be a flow- in path of water to the East Kolkata Wetlands Ramsar site. “The flood resilience and ecology of wetlands must always be looked through the science of hydrology”, she told.

Mr. Subhas Datta shared his experiences in conservation fight for the Adi Ganga and mentioned about the horrifying status of the river at present and also mentioned his suggestions in revitalizing the flow through interventions at public-private interface. He said, “The solid waste

management and encroachments on the banks of the river are the most serious areas that needs to be addressed immediately and KMC has not done enough on it. Surprisingly, KMC does not have any master plan for drainage in the city and the old British lay-outs are still obeyed very loyally, ignoring the obvious changes owing to anthropogenic pressure and urbanization. This increases the city's flood risk multifold and one of the important ways to save Adi Ganga is its immediate desiltation”.

Mr. Kallol Basu raised issues referring to the legal framework for facilitating environmental conservation. He said, “Ramsar Convention is not a legal binding for the state; rather it is a green gesture, but the state laws are legal obligations and must not be violated”. While answering the questions in the forum he mentioned, “The verdicts from the apex court, if not followed then a legal move as contempt of court may be made, but any movement in the ground with the communities who are actually the victims of it or the citizens who's right to life is questioned, shall be much more stronger avenues to address the issues”.

Mr. Tapas Kumar Mandal showcased the initiatives that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation,KMC is planning to undertake for Adi Ganga with the support from World Bank. Mr. Mandal said, “The Project undertaken by KMC with

support from World Bank, 'The National Ganga River Basin Project' will be executed through a short term action plan (1 year) with 'quick gain' activities which can achieve perceptible improvement in service delivery, resulting improvement in water quality and handling of solid waste. There are medium (3years) and long term plans (5 years) for further improvement of the same goal, i.e., reinstatement and transformation of Tolly's Nullah and simultaneous upgradation of local environment”.

Over all, the symposium acted as a significant medium to sensitize the citizens about the gravity of the issue and at the same time brought together

important stakeholders for an orchestrated effort to save Adi Ganga, and the wetlands and thereby save Kolkata from havoc disasters.

We gratefully thank our esteemed panelists for sharing their expertise at the open forum; we thank IWMI, UROTAAR for their valuable partnership and most of all our conscious and enthusiastic citizens who made this symposium successful with their valuable participation.

Road ahead for SAFE is to trace the link of Adiganga and East Kolkata Wetlands, using GIS application and study the hydrology for rejuvenating the flood resilience mechanism, the study report will be shared with important stakeholders including National Green Tribunal.