Surely a rose by any other name...

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - YOURSPACE - SUNJOY MONGA

That ugly sen­tence has reared its head again: “CIDCO had taken a stand that tech­ni­cally, there are no wet­lands in Navi Mum­bai. Th­ese plots look like wet­lands but are ar­ti­fi­cially cre­ated be­cause of non-use of land.” The state­ment first sur­faced two years ago, at­trib­uted to a for­mer Cidco chief. Since then, clouds of flamin­goes have con­tin­ued to mi­grate to th­ese ‘non-wet­lands’. Flow­ers have con­tin­ued to bloom along their edges; tiny aquatic crea­tures to breed in their wa­ters.

All that while, the con­crete rim has been inch­ing steadily for­ward. Soon, that creep will stop, as a green golf course fills one of the ‘non-wet­lands’.

It has bro­ken my heart to see this re­gion change. First there was the planned SEZ, then the new air­port. To see a wet­land filled in for a golf course seems like a fit­ting end to this ecologi- cal tragedy.

It would be bad enough if the decades of change and progress were mea­sured, de­bated, de­ci­sions taken spar­ingly and with re­spect for our rich nat­u­ral her­itage. In­stead, it is ran­dom, feels knee-jerk and re­lent­less. To call th­ese liv­ing, breath­ing spa­ces ‘waste­lands that were mis­tak­enly clas­si­fied as wet­lands’ is to take our­selves even fur­ther from Na­ture than we al­ready are.

Where does this road lead? We’ve had flash floods in Ut­tarak­hand, dev­as­tat­ing flood­ing in Ker­ala, our own mon­soon tragedy re­peated an­nu­ally. We are off-bal­ance, and we know it. Yet the con­crete con­tin­ues to creep.

Why talk of in­cor­rectly la­belled wet­lands, when we know that so many un­de­bat­able wet­lands were filled in to cre­ate our con­crete jun­gle? Doesn’t it make more sense to pro­tect any that re­main, re­gard­less of their ori­gins or of­fi­cial tag?

We have lost acres of man­groves, vast kilo­me­tres of river bank. The var­ied wet­land ecosys­tems we once had are gone. And here is some­thing that works, that sup­ports life and is a haven of bal­ance. Why not leave it alone?

I pray that the ac­tivists pre­vail and the courts pro­tect this stu­pen­dously bird-rich set­ting, with its del­i­cate ecosys­tem, pic­turesque beauty, and even more crit­i­cally, its cru­cial sta­tus as part of our de­fence against cli­mate-re­lated threats.

A golf-course over wet­lands, ‘real’ or not, is the ul­ti­mate mis­ad­ven­ture.

(Sunjoy Monga is a nat­u­ral­ist, pho­tog­ra­pher and au­thor of nu­mer­ous books on bio­di­ver­sity)

Shouldn’t we just pro­tect any wet­lands we have left, re­gard­less of their of­fi­cial tag or sta­tus?

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