Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sunita Narain: Science drowns at land's end

"The fact is that we have a serious and debilitating lack of human capacity to even understand these earth changes. The problem, he explains, lies partly in how earth sciences and oceanography are taught. These old professions are the key to the future."

My colleague Pradip Saha has been filming in Ghoramara, an island in the Sunderban delta, to understand why, in this zone suspended between land and water, people talk of nothing but subsidence. Savita’s narration captures the mood. Two years ago, rising water tore into this housewife’s life, taking away her land, source of livelihood and her dignity. She wasn’t compensated. She then moved further landward, paying a landowner to build another home. But now the water’s grasping at her tiny house again: she shows the camera deep gashes in the ground just outside. Every high tide, Savita stays awake, for the water might just pull her under. The land records at the local panchayat office tell it all: the island has shrunk to a handkerchief — from 13,800 ha to 4,290 ha in the last 20 years.

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