DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Friday, February 14, 2014

BHOPAL LAKE: MEDIA ULTIMATELY BELLS THE CAT



That the Madhya Pradesh government has been speaking about conservation of the Bhoj Wetland and the two lakes that constitute it with a forked tongue has been known to the media for a long, long time. If I as a layman, like many others, could decipher its machinations, surely the people in the media, with their available massive resources, also would have done so. The difference was that while I had been screaming about it in my blogs and facebook notings after the doors of the English language newspapers were shut on the casual reporters, the media kept its counsel. It is only this morning that Dainik Bhaskar, the most widely read Hindi daily, brought out a feature about the doublespeak of the government, an act that is akin to belling the cat.

It said that an international conference for conservation of the lakes is being held in the city under the auspices of “Jheel Mahatsav” (Festival of lakes), Upper Lake shore is being beautified with coloured lights and the waste water of the Shamla filtration plant is being converted into a spring to descend in a cascade close to the Boat Club only to attract more visitors, there is no talk of conservation of the Lake – as is well known, a vital water body for the town. The government has blocked the report prepared by the Centre for Environmental Planning, Ahmedabad, (CEPT) an organisation that was hired as consultants by the government, for preparing a master plan suggesting conservational measures for the water body. It also said the sources of water for the Lake have been blocked by encroachments and construction and the fluid that it gets is nothing but sewer water – water that the people of part of the town are made to drink. It is a scathing commentary on the government’s conservation efforts.

The news report also said that the government is itself killing the Lake. While it allowed, inter alia, the Sports Authority of India to come up in the catchments of the Lake, it also built up a massive place for amusement, the Sair Sapata complex with toy train and what not, close to the Lake affecting the quality of its waters and impacting on its bird life. I have been raising these issues in my writings as also in the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum of which I am a founder-member. These have been taken up but have fallen on deaf ears.

Experts from 15 countries are attending the Conference on Lakes and Wetlands and field visits are slated for them. They will see what all is happening, as they did earlier on several occasions when such jamborees were held by the erstwhile Lakes Conservation Authority. They must have shared their feelings with official representatives but none in the government, especially the political bosses, listen to them. Officials seem to be in a state of paralysis. Under the circumstances, the foreign experts are likely to keep their counsel. If we cannot take care of our assets how can foreigners help? And, why should they?

I entirely agree with the newspaper that it is in fact the government which is killing the Lake. From all appearances it may cease to remain useful to us, as the CEPT had said in its interim report, in another 50 or 60 years. Three researchers had also opined that if the things continue in the same lackadaisical manner, the Lake would cease to exist in the next 70 to 80 years.


Many like us will not be around but the loss will be of the succeeding generations. They might as well SIT UP AND ACT.
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