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Micro-level planning apt for solving water crises in India

India is a country where a number of regions face a severe shortage of water. With a view to solve this perennial problem of water crises in the affected areas of the country, dams are constructed for the purpose. Eminent environmentalist Dr Pradip Kumar Sikdar associated with the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management institute in Kolkata favours the water shed management plan that entails the construction of smaller water bodies in drought prone areas for catering to the demands of the people for water. Water shed management is also suitable for areas where rainfall is not sufficient and ground water level is not adequate for utilization.

According to Dr Sikdar there are two methods available for tapping and storing water. They are the soft engineering type and the hard engineering approach. Dr Sikdar says that the soft engineering type or micro level planning is preferable in comparison to the hard engineering approach which envisages the construction of huge dams with a great potential for triggering off an ecological catastrophe in the ecological system of the region where such dams are constructed. The soft engineering approach is preferable as it does not have any disastrous effect on the environment and does not render people homeless. Dr Sikdar observes that another serious threat that dams of great magnitude can pose is the triggering off deep seated fault associated with seismic activities thereby causing earthquakes and consequently causing great damage to life and property.

Dr Sikdar is of the opinion that people in dire need of water should not subjected to difficulties owing to delays arising out of controversies surrounding linked to the construction of dams. In this regard he cites the example of Sardar Sarovar dam that had resulted in a conflict between the proponents of the dam and those opposing it. Dr Sikdar feels that if dams have to be built proper rehabilitation of the people living in the region should precede its construction. He adds that measures to safeguard the ecological balance of the region should be adopted and proper examination of the seismic zone should be carried out before the project is launched. Constructions of dams can cause inundation of large areas adjoining it and transborder rehabilitation is the most apposite way of settling people affected by the downstream effect of dams during their construction.



R.D. Burman’s accompanists recreate Pancham magic in Kolkata

November 21: Fourteen musicians, who accompanied R.D.Burman when he was alive while producing some of the eternal Hindi songs which are still popular among music lovers even today, enthralled a packed audience at Kala Mandir in Kolkata on Saturday with the instrumental rendition of some of the classic R.D. Burman songs that are widely adored even today.

The unique programme was organised by euphony an R.D.Burman fan club based in Kolkata. Manohar Singh, the renowned saxophone player weaved a magic spell on the audience in as he played some of the evergreen hits of R.D Burman also fondly referred to as Panchamda. Usha Uthup who made a guest appearance said that R.Burman’s music retained the same old magic of yesteryear and cast a magic spell on music lovers even today. The fourteen musicians formed a part of R.D. Burman’s team when the legendary musician gifted to the Hindi film industry a large number of greatly popular Hindi songs. Paachamda’s novelty in experimenting with sounds which he later incorporated in his songs have still remained exclusive and the credit for bringing in modernity to the world of Hindi music goes to him.

Son of Sachin Dev Burman, the famed music director of Bollywood, R.D.Burman assisted his father and learned the nuances of music from him. Some of the songs that were produced in the 1970’s and early eighties have still retained their charm as they are hugely popular even among the present generation of music lovers.

Jayanta, one of the members of the euphony told exoticecho.com that the programme had evoked a great response from both the young as well as the old generation of music lovers. He said that R.D. Burman’s followers were spread all across the globe and euphony had witnessed a sizeable boost to its membership in recent times.



Dr Pradip Sikdar: Need to safeguard Kolkata wetlands to avert groundwater catastrophe in metropolis

(In an exclusive interview to exoticecho.com, Dr Pradip Sikdar noted hydro geologist explains the significance of the wetlands of Kolkata and the need to safeguard them to prevent ground water contamination and maintaining the ecological balance of “The City of Joy”.)

Kolkata November 30: Wetlands can be termed as transitional lands between terrestrial and aquatic system where the level of water is present at the surface or near it. According to RAMSAR Convention 1971 wetlands have been defined as regions consisting of marsh, fen, peat land or water, natural or artificial in form, temporarily or permanent in nature that can be static or brackish. This also comprises areas of marine water the depth of which does not exceed six meters.

Wetlands play a crucial role in sustaining an environment that is benign and helps in providing a healthy atmosphere for human beings. Wetlands are vital resources that offer eco-system services while at the same time regulate ecological activities that occur naturally. These include water storage, ground water recharge and discharge, flood control and river regulation, water purification as well as sediment retention. Wetlands are significant in terms of provisioning services that entail water supply both for humans and non human beings like birds and animals. Provisioning services of wetlands also include acting as resources for activities related to fisheries, agriculture, forage, craft materials and growth of medicinal plants. The cultural services that the wetlands offer come in the form of augmenting bio-diversity besides acting as cultural sites.

Wetlands act as a sink that absorbs Carbon Dioxide thereby reducing environmental pollution. They also absorb water and thus prevent flooding catastrophes in surrounding regions.

On 19th August 2002, East Kolkata wetlands were declared as RAMSAR site.
East Kolkata Wetlands is spread over an area of 12,500 hectares consisting of 45.93 percent of water bodies and 38.92 percent of agricultural terrain with the remaining area being occupied by urban and rural settlements, furthermore acting as garbage disposal sites.

Speaking exclusively to exoticecho.com Dr. Pradip Sikdar, professor of environmental management at the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management noted that East Kolkata wetlands are of great significance in terms of maintaining the ecological balance of nature in and around Kolkata. He observed with caution that lax measures to safeguard these vital water bodies could augment the environmental problems already being faced by Kolkata in the form of abnormal weather temperatures recorded in both summer and winter coupled with odd rainfall conditions witnessed in the rainy seasons. Dr Sikdar observed that the existence of these water bodies offered a natural water treatment resource to the city of Kolkata by collecting 800,000 metre cube of water flowing out of the city everyday and subsequently treating it naturally. Expressing his concern about the way in which large stretches of the East Kolkata wetlands have been converted to fallow land, settlements, waste disposal ground and canals between 1965 to 1998, Dr Sikdar warned that attempts were covertly being made to convert parts of these crucial East Kolkata wetlands to enable human settlements to flourish. In this connection he referred to the alarming rise in rampant construction of high rises along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass of the city, resulting in the destruction of several water bodies in the region. The alteration to the wetlands all through 1965 to 1998 and purportedly beyond the period which has remained unnoticed have resulted in massive exploitation of ground water for drinking, agricultural as well as industrial purposes in the absence of any other alternative source of water. Consequentially there has been a remarkable fall in the ground water level of the affected regions. This has also enhanced the risk of ground water being contaminated.

According to Dr Sikdar the setting up of the leather technology complex on the eastern fringes of the East Kolkata Wetlands in Kolkata have led to the exploitation of large quantities of groundwater for coping up with the activities connected with the procedure of manufacturing leather goods. The current massive utilization of ground water posed a serious threat to the flow pattern of ground water enhancing the threat of pollutants from solid waste disposal grounds in the East Kolkata Wetlands travelling long distances and contaminating the ground water in the zones where the screens of the pumping wells that extract water for human consumption are located. As a result the deep tube wells that extract water for domestic utilisation in Kolkata as well as the adjoining regions may pump out water containing toxic metals and metalloid like copper, nickel, cadmium, lead, chromium and arsenic.

Dr Sikdar clarified that several areas of the East Kolkata Wetlands do not have the top confining layer of clay but consisted of sand that occurred at the top, making these areas vulnerable to ground water contamination through poisonous metals at a more rapid pace.
Dr Sikdar observed that in a bid to lessen the risk of pollution in the aquifers that existed in Kolkata and adjoining regions efforts should be undertaken to minimize interaction between wetland water and ground water. This can be achieved by regulating deep tube well operation time, making available treated water supply system and adopting measures to harvest rain water. Artificially recharging the aquifers by means of harvested rainwater is also vital for safeguarding the ground water level from decreasing alarmingly.

Dr Sikdar warned of the prospective threat to the ecological system of the city if exploitation of groundwater for human consumption and activities linked to the construction of dwelling units continued unabated in the upcoming township of Rajarhat as well as in areas located along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass of the city.



2G Scam: What Vikramaditya taught us about Manmohan Singh

Amal Bhattacharjee

Does the Indian Prime Minister have any responsibility for the 2G scam, which is taking toll among the Prime Minister’s cabinet? This vital issue has been in round among Indians for quite some time. Here is a piece, written by a senior citizen, who went into the traditional theory of Governance from mythology.

Once there lived an old and pious man, renowned for his honesty. One day his neighbor, a rich merchant comes to him with a request. The merchant was leaving on a voyage and wants the old man to safeguard his wealth, until his return. The old man agrees and with God as witness promises to protect and safeguard the merchant’s wealth. The old man then entrusts the safe keep of the merchant’s wealth to his son, from whom he takes an oath of propriety and honesty. Slowly the son starts dipping into the merchant’s wealth; people notice this and warn the old man of the son’s misdeeds. The old man calls his son asks him to explain, he also reminds him of his oath on following the right path. The son rubbishes the accusations as rumors and the idle gossip of jealous people, who could not bear to see his prosperity. The old man accepts the son’s explanation and things go on as before.

The merchant returns and demands his wealth. The old man calls his son, who hands over a quarter of the merchant’s wealth saying that is all there was. The merchant realizing that he has been cheated approaches the King. The King listens to the merchant’s complaint and summons the old man. The old man comes to the court with his son and handing him over to the King says “your majesty, the merchant is right. My son has confessed to the crime. Please punish him.”

The king has the son flogged and imprisoned. He then praises the old mans honesty and dismisses the case. But the merchant demands punishment for the old man saying, “I have still not received justice. I had entrusted my wealth to the old man which he swore by God to safeguard. The old man’s integrity is intact, but what of me, I have been robbed of my life’s savings, and made a pauper. It was the old man’s decision to entrust my wealth the son for safe keeping. As far as I am concerned the old man is the culprit, and should be punished.”

The king is astounded by this demand. The old man, was neither a party to the theft nor did he benefit from it. In fact, he had sent his son to jail. Yet, the merchant was asking for the old man’s punishment. The Betal asks Vikramaditya, “What should be the Kings decision.”

Vikramaditya’s replies, “Though the old man is innocent of the actual theft, he is guilty of dereliction of duty. The son’s crime was a straight forward one, the old man’s was a graver crime. He did nothing to protect the merchant’s wealth. Far from being vigilant he failed to take action even when he was warned of his son’s misdeeds. Because of his laxity the merchant is condemned to a life of penury. He should be punished.”

India 2010, Dr. Manmohan Singh, esteemed economist, former Governor of RBI, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, former Finance Minister, a man whose personal ethics and integrity are unblemished, takes oath to protect and safeguard the Nation and its assets. He appoints Raja, as his Cabinet Minister for IT & Telecom. Unlike the story, this heist of a precious national asset is carried out in full view of Dr. Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues. Newspapers across the country cry out at this outrage in front page headlines.

The Indian Constitution grants the Prime Minister absolute power in running the country. He is the head of the Government and the Union Cabinet functions at his pleasure. As per the Transaction of Business Rules the Prime Minister has the unrestricted right to demand and get any file, any record from any Ministry. Dr. Man Mohan Singh could have at any time stopped this heist of a National asset, yet he chose to remain silent. The Minister’s failure to exercise his constitutional rights has caused irreparable loss to the Nation.

Dr. Singh did not profit personally from Raja’s shenigans, but his failure to act, to honor the oath of office, to protect and safeguard the nation and its wealth is unforgivable. Like the old man, he has sacked Raja from his ministerial berth, but does his culpability end there.

The people of India had entrusted their faith and the future of the Nation in Dr. Manmohan Singh, believing him to be a man of integrity and honesty, and not to Raja. Does dismissing Raja absolve Dr. Singh or like the old man is he guilty of dereliction of duty and failure to safeguard the Nation and its citizens. Does he deserve punishment?

It is for the Indian citizen to decide.


Two Great Maestros Come Together in Kolkata after 21 Years, Enthrall Music Lovers

(An exoticecho.com exclusive)

January 21: Renowned classical vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty along with famed tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain enthralled a packed Science City audience in Kolkata with their scintillating performance. The exclusive jugalbandi by Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty together with Ustad Zakir Hussain was organized by Friend’s 91.9 FM service. The musical extravaganza witnessed two supreme exponents of classical music churning out a melodious rendition that kept the audience spell bound for nearly two and half hours.

Ustad Zakir Hussain was his normal brilliant self playing the tabla with a passion that is difficult to emulate. Pandit Ajoy Chakroborty with his masterly voice in tandem with the deft touches on the tabla by Zakir Hussain was a treat for the music lovers of Kolkata. Lauding Ustad Zakir Hussain for his exceptional skill as a tabla player Pandit Ajay Chakraborty said that Zakir was his constant companion in his nascent years as a classical singer and was in many ways responsible for his gradual rise to fame.

Talking to exoticecho.com Zakir Hussain commended Kolkata’s music lovers for their knowledge of classical music. He said that performing with Pandit Ajay Chakraborty was a rare honour for him and he was glad to perform along side him on an evening that saw the two stars together on the stage at Kolkata after twenty one years.

The song Aeya na balam keya karu sajini made famous by Bare Ghulam Ali and a revelation in the world of music was enriched by the talent of Zakir’s father Allah Rakkha Khan as a tabla player. Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty performed the same song today with Zakir as his accompanist on the tabla. The packed audience went in raptures as the song gradually unfolded and both the maestros showing their skills in their respective spheres. While Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty kept the audience spell bound with his vocal skill Zakir regaled the audience with his nimble fingers that struck the tabla at an incredible pace. At the end of a scintillating evening the audience at the Science City auditorium gave a standing ovation to two of the finest musicians that played in unison and made music sound celestial, archetypal of the ultimate maestros that have redefined music.



Renowned Hydro geologist, Subhajyoti Das warns of water crises reaching alarming proportions in Bangalore

In an exclusive interview to Anjishnu Biswas, editor of exoticecho.com, Mr. Subhajyoti Das who visited the USA on UNDP Fellowship for training connected with “Integrated Use of all Water Resources” expresses his deep concern over the growing water crises plaguing Bangalore, referred to as the software hub of India. Mr. Subhajyoti Das, one of the eminent Hydro geologists of India has contributed significantly to groundwater research in the country by means of his revolutionary work and connected activities in groundwater studies. Mr. Das who visited the USA on UNDP Fellowship for training connected with “Integrated Use of all Water Resources”, in the Colorado State University (Fort Colins), US geological Survey (Tucson), American Water Foundation and Salt River Project (Phoenix) was also the Regional Director of the Central Ground Water Board of India. Mr. Das is currently the editor of a journal published by the Geological Society of India, Bangalore. In the interview to Anjishnu Biswas, the editor of exoticecho.com, Mr. Subhajyoti Das warns that if corrective steps are not taken Bangalore could witness problems of extraordinary nature in terms of non availability of water to the required extent. The following is an excerpt of the interview with Anjishnu Biswas.

Bangalore, the software hub of India, also referred to as silicon city, is a rapidly expanding territory with a populace of 8 million people and dotted with numerous multistoried buildings, housing and commercial complexes along with Malls and Multiplexes The IT boom has resulted in unparalleled commercial activities together with the need to keep the sector going . As a consequence the demand for the city’s water supply has augmented considerably. Water is a major component of the infrastructure of a city where varied forms of activities takes place. However Bangalore does not enjoy the privilege of having a perennial river in close proximity. The city has to rely chiefly on the waters of Cauvery River, transported from a distance of roughly 100 km and raised to a height of 500 m from the source. But in comparison to the water supply requirement of 1200 million litres per day (MLD), the water that the river Cauvery provides to the city is to the extent of only 870MLD, thereby leaving a difference of 330 MLD. Apart from this demand for water is the industrial necessity of nearly 60 MLD, thus, increasing the deficit further.

A considerable quantity of Cauvery water is also lost in transmission creating additional stress in the accessibility of water for consumption by the city dwellers. Following an upsurge in population growth, expansion of industries, as well as commercial activities, the difference between demand and supply by the year 2025, will be tough to fulfill. Rampant urbanization has created an adverse impact on a number of the surface water bodies, with much of the precipitation water lost as runoff with the resultant reduction in groundwater recharge and decrease in water supplies. This dwindling water supply has resulted in the city’s growing reliance on bore wells, of which there has been no appropriate evaluation so far, - 1.5 lakh to 3 lakhs by a number of assessments made so far. This has led to groundwater overexploitation, deepening of groundwater levels, jeopardizing the ecosystem in the process. This problem becomes severe every summer as reservoir levels are at the lowest. This affects the water supply, and growing stress on groundwater. Under these circumstances of dwindling water supply trade in commercial marketing of water is thriving. The burden of the suffering is endured by the low income group or the deprived as they are compelled to pay a number of times extra on water tankers than their wealthy counterparts, who live in luxurious apartments or buildings, furnished with safe BWSSB water supplies at subsidized charges.

Till the first half of the 20th century Bangalore did not encounter any water shortage with numerous flowing lakes and stream around the city furnishing continuous supplies of water to the city. Currently the city’s water supply network encounters two-pronged difficulty of dwindling surface water resource because of drying up of lakes and reducing ground water because of excessive utilization. To discover an enduring solution to the water shortage, the origin of water crisis has to be comprehended in the correct angle. Mr. Das backs the refurbishment of waste land and lakes, rainwater harvesting, and water conservation actions to cope up with the dual crisis of surface water and groundwater.

Dr. Das points to the exercise of water conservation as the only crucial answer to the uncontrolled water crisis. He envisages retrieving considerable amount of water by means of domestic level wastewater treatment and recycling as well as recovery of enormous transmission wastes through suitable actions.



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