Flattening of Chambal ravines won't help | comment | Hindustan Times
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Flattening of Chambal ravines won't help

Despite strong opposition, the Madhya Pradesh government now wants to turn the ravines of Chambal — a unique geographical feature — into agriculture fields by demolishing the hillocks.

comment Updated: Jan 19, 2015 01:12 IST

The government of Madhya Pradesh is not only an early adopter when it comes to fresh ideas, but it is also bubbling with new — though decidedly strange — ones too. After deciding to go ahead with the Ken-Betwa river-interlinking project, which involves diverting 6,000 ha of the Panna Tiger Reserve, despite strong opposition, it now wants to turn the ravines of Chambal — a unique geographical feature — into agriculture fields by demolishing the hillocks. Last week, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan placed the proposal before the Centre, saying that the ravines, which span 1.8 million ha, could be turned into cultivable plots and yield benefits by way of agriculture and jobs. In Mumbai last year, the CM had talked of establishing industries in the ravines.

While this plan to flatten the ravines may be new, the destruction of this natural habitat has been on for a while thanks to reckless construction of small dams, diversion of water, sand mining and fishing in the Chambal river. All these activities not only disrupt the river’s flow, but also destroy its aquatic ecosystem, which supports more than 550 species including the Gangetic dolphin, Indian skimmer, black-bellied tern, sarus crane and endangered turtle species.

If flattening the ravine is one model of development, there are other less destructive ones that do the same. Uttar Pradesh, which is not a leader when it comes to governance ideas, is planning to make its part of the Chambal ravine a hub for wildlife tourism. Outside India, of course, the treatment of such areas is different: In 2013, businesses and environmental groups launched a campaign inviting residents of Toronto to protect the city’s natural ravines. The campaign educates residents about the many social, environmental and economic benefits such ravines deliver. While it is true that the two worlds are different economically and socially, Bhopal surely can find other ways of reaching its goals by using this ecologically important area sustainably.