Last call

  • 30/07/2001

Last call  every once in a while, eating the tuberous growth in the wetlands, the male and female Sarus crane ( Grus antigone antigone ) strike a pose and make their call in unison. The villagers of Etawah and Mainpuri districts of Uttar Pradesh ( up ) have for ages been used to such antics of the bird. But the Sarus could soon become scarce in the two districts that have witnessed some of the biggest congregations of the non-paired-up Sarus in the country, feeding themselves, finding their mates and breeding in the wetlands and the agricultural fields of the two districts.

The up state government wants to dispense with the wetlands and its state bird, the Sarus crane, which depends upon these wetlands.

The Uttar Pradesh Bhumi Sudhar Nigam ( upbsn or the Land Improvement Corporation) has, under a World Bank-funded project to reclaim sodic land in the two districts, designated the wetlands also as wastelands that are to be reclaimed for agricultural purposes. It's an appalling story of departments within the government at loggerheads with each other, misplaced enthusiasm and a farce perpetrated in the name of the state running a participatory development programme. The victims of this charade could be, besides the besieged Sarus, the villagers of the two districts.

Worse still, the people perhaps do not even realise how precariously their future hangs in the balance. Of the several villagers of the region interviewed by Down To Earth none knew what the project was all or whether the land would be transfered to them after reclamation for cultivating. They all believed that the us $194.1 million up government project is specifically to drain the wetlands and not to reclaim the Ussar (saline-alkaline) land, as it is projected on the government and World Bank papers. The Kuddaiya wetlands in Mainpuri district are already being drained and the work is on way at the Ambarpur wetlands in the district. Vidya Ram, resident of Ambarpur, like many others, says wistfully, "The government is draining the wetlands, perhaps for agriculture. I don't know why. Who knows what the government does? Once the wetlands are gone the sarsai (

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