West Bengal is often neglected as a coastal state of India. While the shore length of West Bengal is long enough, most of it lies in the active delta region of Ganga-Brahmaputra, which is the largest in the world. Only a small part of the East Medinipur coast, around the beach resort town of Digha, is accessible for large ocean going vessels.
Two riverine ports of West Bengal, the Kolkata Port and the Haldia Port, have navigation problems, and also have minimal scope of expansion. With growing demand in the industrial belt in eastern India, and the markets in the north-east spreading rapidly, there is a need for another port in eastern India. Thus, the proposed Tajpur port in West Bengal near Digha, is expected to be a game-changer in the region.
Tajpur port offers many facilities which both Kolkata and Haldia port lacked. Firstly, Tajpur port is located in the sea, providing a natural draft of more than 12 metres, and can be expanded upto 15 metres. Tajpur port offers both rail and road connectivity apart from waterways, which will reduce the travel costs to a greater extent. Tajpur port is also located strategically near the border with Bangladesh, and Myanmar also lies in close proximity. Hence the port can also be used for defence purposes by the Navy.
As most of the land required for the port is to be reclaimed from the sea, no land acquisition is required. However, building dykes and earthen dams to reach the port from the mainland may prove to be costly. Also, Odisha offers better port facilities through its Paradeep Port, and hence, the Indian Government is reluctant to build another port in close proximity to the already operational Paradeep Port. The State Government, however, has expressed interest to go ahead with the plan, and it hopes that the new port holds the key for expanding business in Bengal.
Despite the plan of the port starting way back in 2016, hardly any progress took place in the last 6 years. Tussle between the State Government and the Centre is delaying any sort of plans for the new port. First, the Centre expressed its desire to develop the port, when the State handed over the majority 74% of its stake. However, as no progress was made, the State is looking forward to implementing 100% of the port through private-public partnership.
Currently, bidding for the private stakeholder has been organized and Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) has emerged as the highest bidder. However, only two bidders emerged in the bidding process, APSEZ defeating the other bidder JSW Infrastructure by a very small margin. It is now up to the West Bengal Government to see how long it takes to finish all the paperwork for the planning stage. After the port is formally handed over to the private player, it may not take more than 5 years for the inauguration of the first phase. The new port has a potential to generate a large number of jobs, which is much-needed in the post-pandemic age.
The Bhagirathi-Hooghly river flows through one of the most densely populated regions in India. Starting from Berhampore in Murshidabad, Nabadwip-Mayapur in Nadia, along the Hooghly industrial region of Bandel-Naihati, Chandannagar, Chinasurah, Serampore-Barrackpore, culminating at Kolkata-Howrah, the most densely populated region in entire eastern India. It is thus a hectic task to keep the Bhagirathi-Hooghly river pollution-free at least at the ghats. Though the ghats north of Kolkata are quite clean and well-maintained, the ghats around Kolkata are one of the dirtiest, with more space for garbage than for bathing.
The ghats along Hooghly, North 24 Pargannas and Howrah were quite poor until recently. However, almost all of them underwent extensive maintenance and renovation, as well as garbage removal. Now most of the ghats along with the river banks underwent redevelopment and brought under riverside beautification project. In Kolkata, though efforts have been made to beautify the Princep Ghat area, the other ghats still lie shabby, littered with garbage. The Millennium Park, which was expected to be the top recreational centre when inaugurated back in 2007, is now a disused place, with defunct rides and amphitheatre centres. The Babughat now has a footbridge over the ghat area, which is really clean and tourist friendly, but the ghat itself is still a garbage dump area. The stretch from Armenian Ghat to Bagbajar Ma er Ghat is worse with the riverfront being used as warehouse centres and slums. Within this stretch lies the Mallick Ghat, the largest flower market of Asia, the Jagannath Ghat, in the Burrabazar wholesale market area, Nimtala Ghat, the largest cremation centre in Kolkata, the Sovabajar Ghat, with many temples, and the Kumartuli Ghat, the area which is renowned for making Durga idols. The situation is not any better north of Bagbajar ghat in Cossipore and Baranagar. Only the Dakshineshwar Ghat fared well in northern Kolkata despite being the crowdest, attracting thousands of devotees each day.
If developed, the area could have been a major tourist hub and recreational centre. The whole Kolkata riverfront contains various tourist centres, like the Princep Ghat, the Eden Gardens Pagoda, the Metcalfe Hall and other building museums of BBD Bag, the Sarada Ma house, the Sarbamangala Temple of Cossipore, and Baranagar Ramakrishna Math. However, illegal encroachments, illegal parking slots, ill-maintenance by the municipality, lack of awareness, and most importantly, lack of our interest in our own city Kolkata is what is stopping it from developing into a Grand Strand that the cities of the West have.
How we can develop the ghats of Kolkata is being covered in the second part of this article.
Peace in today’s world can very well be described as a sort of abstract utopian concept longed for, ie a common goal and state of rest. This is clearly contradicted and humiliated in today’s world with the ongoing thirst and hunger for power, territory, and capital. At the same time, development refers to a long-drawn process which can contribute towards creating growth, positive change, or simply an improvement in the physical, mental or social surroundings of any human being.
So now the crucial question which comes into mind is, “where exactly does science fit into this complex demographic?”. Science, whose nature is yet to be known and harnessed, its power unmatched, put into such a dangerous and volatile situation.
Limiting the capabilities of science to plainly its subjective attributes- physics, chemistry, biology etc. is an injustice to the core of the subject. Its scope includes the likes of social, economic, and environmental science, which are increasingly being incorporated into our daily lives and can be said to bring about tangible positive changes. For peace, science provides the greatest boon in today’s disease-stricken world in the form of medicines. Even in today’s highly sensitive virus-stricken environment, countries all over the world are able to share and discuss their individual discoveries, findings and hence contribute towards improving the world situation as a whole and henceforth try to bring about a state of rest and normalcy for all. Science furthermore opens up various new horizons for career opportunities and hence improves the employment conditions, further enabling stability to exist that can eventually contribute towards peace within a country or area. It also creates the environment needed for learning and education.
This is a beneficial effect because by improving education in a country, we improve the society for future generations. Hence, it can inculcate within them an early habit of staying in a state of peace and maintaining peace which will only be helpful in building society. Suppose I were to illustrate this argument further using an example. In that case, we can educate even five children who have been born and brought up in dire conditions; they might grow up and learn to sustain themselves by good means, in contrast to today’s scenario where many of the poverty-stricken, unemployed people, especially the youth is turning to crime or even war as seen in the northern parts of our very own country. These are the parts where the resources are so scarce and underdeveloped that the people have no choice but to try and survive of anything, desperate and needy for minimum sustenance.
Science hence if not directly, indirectly, can bring out a sure-shot habit of peace.
While at the same time, if we were to talk about the direct implications of science on bringing about peace, a prominent successful example necessary to include would be the current dealings and proceedings of the honest attempt to foster harmony between the war-stricken nations and people – the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The conflict between these two has been raging on since 1948 imply after the modern Jewish state was newly founded. It is not as though attempts haven’t been made to bring peace in these countries. on several occasions, there have been attempts to find common ground to arrive at a consensus to achieve peace and stability for peoples of both sides. These efforts even included endeavours to promote interaction, collaboration and peace-building between the two groups, but somehow always ended in hostility. There was no tangible change seen until 2002 when the IPSO, the Israeli Palestinian science organisation, was launched to bring together scientists from both sides to pursue joint projects.
The grants issued under the program require the consensus and partnership of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Following its mission statement, the IPSO proposes to establish a model of infrastructure that promotes, creates and sustains development educations and, most importantly, the collaboration between the communities through the universal language of science using innovative projects and initiatives. Scientific research endeavours involving people working together as equal partners would produce practical results and would likewise engender personal trust and friendship between people living in the two communities. Hence improve the conditions required to attain common goals and further peace by enabling the parties to arrive at a common ground beneficial for growth and support for both.
Surprising too is the lack of awareness of institutions such as IPSO and its vision for promoting peace through collaborative interactions between Palestinian and Israeli scientists. The workings of the IPSO can be used as an important model to base future organisations and missions upon in such similar conflict-prone areas, which will eventually benefit from common associations applicable to both concerned parties with a common independent goal and indirect implication on peace.
If I was to talk about science and development, there is no doubt that these two factors go hand in hand. Without science, there can virtually be no development. In fact, one of the largest and effective strategies devised in the last century of sustainable development, which includes the idea of using resource judiciously, is the very component of earth and economic sciences.
Sustainable development in the past century has proven to be an advantageous strategy in terms of its terms for use and mission statements which include using only for our own needs and preserving enough for the coming generations for them to undergo development with exactly the same freedom present generations have been able to.
Furthermore, suppose we were to analyse the implications of the actions of ancient civilisations and colonies. They have constantly been developing themselves and their organisations using new techniques and methodology as the basis of trials and errors, which can be deduced as the first scientific experiments seen in modern civilisations. Whether it includes discoveries in the forms of new materials, technologies, etc. that have found practical application in various areas of production of economic goods that have become in common use by people, they have increased prosperity and made life easier.
This may have worked for them progressively and effectively, however recently, the norms and uses of the world with the increasing global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, increased risk of various climatic cataclysms, increased environmental pollution, declining resources of raw materials, arable land and clean water, the need to develop renewable sources of energy, electromobility, recycling have created the need to develop business processes according to the model of sustainable pro-ecological development and the green economy concept which are also constantly evolving. We can say that the two do go directly hand in hand.
If I were to compare the 3, science, peace and development, to an object, it would be to the branches of a tree called society. These three factors cannot grow and flourish in sanctity without the support of society. Furthermore, all contribute equally in some way or the other to the overall growth of the tree by bearing fruits etc. which implicates directly on society to maintain it economically and keep it standing, which is exactly the role science needs to fulfil in today’s changing world.
Written by – By Tanisha Rungta
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