f o r    m a n a g i n g    t o m o r r o w
MARCH 25, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Mobile Security
Today, it is all about information and how the right information is sent to the right people at the right time and right place. Uncertainty about how to secure mobile phones in the face of increasing threats is slowing individual adoption of mobile applications. There are many facets of mobile security, including network intrusion, mobile viruses, spam and mobile phishing. Analysts expect big telecom companies to develop security solutions on various security platforms.

Rough Ride
These are competitive times for the Indian aviation industry. As salaries zoom, players are scrambling to find profits. Even the state-owned Indian is now seeking young airhostesses to take on the competition. It is planning to introduce a voluntary retirement scheme for airhostesses above 40 years. On an average, they draw a salary of Rs 5 lakh a year. The salaries of pilots, too, are soaring. According to industry estimates, the country needs over 3,000 pilots over the next five years.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  March 11, 2007

The Hungry Tide
Global warming, and rising ocean levels, is eating up large portions of the low-lying Sunderban delta, says Ritwik Mukherjee, who spent a day there recently.
130 km off Kolkata

Kids at Gangasagar Colony Primary School

It's raining heavily, as it has been since morning. We alight from our car at Harwood Point Lot #10, just past Diamond Harbour, after a nearly three-hour drive from Kolkata. If the name sounds a trifle grand, the reality is far removed from it. The place is a sea of umbrellas, screening the several hundred villagers gathered there from the wrath of the heavens above. There are some makeshift bamboo and burlap stalls where dozens more have gathered in the vain hope of keeping themselves dry. They are all waiting for the next "vessel" (as fishing trawlers, which double up as a means of riverine public transport when they're not catching fish, are called here) to ferry them across the river. On a clear day, the silhouette of portions of the Sunderban delta, where the Ganga, the Jamuna and the Brahmaputra meet the sea, is visible from here.

We hire a country boat fitted with a diesel outboard motor for a recce of the area. Our only protection against the elements is an oil-stained tarpaulin sheet with mud patches. Our destination is Kachuberia, down the river, which we reach in 45 minutes. It's still pouring and visibility is poor. But all along the banks, there are clear signs that the river is making steady inroads into terra firma.

"What you see here is nothing. Closer to the sea (about 17 km downriver), entire habitationshave been gobbled up by the river,"

From Kachuberia, we drive 32 km to Gangasagar Colony, close to where the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal; this is a popular pilgrimage spot. About 300-350 families of Ghodamara, Lohachara and Suparibbhanga islands, which have been overrun by the rising waters, have been rehabilitated here. These, we are told, were just the "trailer". A report prepared by Jadavpur University's School of Oceanogrphic Studies says: "Many more islands in the Sunderban belt may similarly go underwater by 2020." The reason: the sea is rising at an annual rate of 3.14 mm compared to the global rate of 2.2 mm, causing massive soil erosion. "The only way to stop this erosion is to plant larger numbers of trees along the banks of the river and along the shoreline," says Mantulal Mondal, Head Teacher at the local Gangasagar Colony Primary School. "Our students, teachers, their families and other local people are doing their bit; but it needs greater governmental involvement," he says. Adds Ajoy Patra, Head of the local Gram Panchayat: "The government should put up concrete embankments to arrest the march of the tides."

Uncertain future: Chandan Dolui (top) and his family have been rehabilitated from Ghodamara islands to Gangasagar Colony. (Bottom) Badal Chandra Giri (L) points to inroads made by the river, and Nepal Pradhan

From the evidence at hand, that is obviously not happening. If anything, the opposite seems to be the case. The authorities of the nearby Haldia Port, had, a few years ago, erected a diversion dam on the Hooghly near Agnimari Char in order to direct greater water flows to the port. The dangers of tinkering with nature became apparent when the gushing waters started eroding and then gobbled up Ghodamara. Says a senior official of Haldia Port Authorities: "Soil erosion and submersion of islands in the Sunderban delta can be attributed to premature human settlement, among other reasons. We only executed a duly approved and sanctioned plan."

Apart from the dislocation and devastation caused by floods, rising sea levels also cause long-term economic disruption for survivors. Sheikh Basir and Badal Chandra Giri were small but prosperous farmers in Lohachara and Ghodamara, respectively; they have now been rehabilitated in Gangasagar Colony. "Earlier, we had nearly 75 bighas (1 bigha comprises 14,400 sq. ft) of cultivable land each. Now the government has given us only 1.5 bighas each in this new colony. It's difficult to run our families," says Giri.

The same story is repeated across the entire Gangetic Delta. Unless the government and civil society take urgent steps to arrest this situation, the entire Sunderban region, and large parts of India's low-lying eastern coastal belt, stretching from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu, will be submerged by 2040; 75 million families will be uprooted; and the surging saline waters will render millions of acres of fertile land uncultivable.

Says Kanti Ganguly, Minister, Sunderban Development, Government of West Bengal: "Tackling global warming is beyond our capabilities. We've urged Union Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal to suggest what needs to be done. Meanwhile, we are planting mangrove trees along the embankments and rehabilitating people from the vulnerable zone to safer places."

So, the Ganga doesn't flow quiet any longer.