WILD Trustee Bittu Sahgal responds to Amlan Dutta , who works for Tata Steel and who defends the development of the Dhamra Port despite all evidence that it will destroy the largest nesting grounds in the world for the endangered Olive Ridley marine turtle……

Dear Amlan,

I have been following your courageous defense of the Dhamra Port for some months now and frankly I do not blame you for defending the port; after all they are your employers and owe your loyalty to them. I am sure that were you employed by Greenpeace, or the Mangrove Action people, or even Sanctuary you would allow your own mind and heart to come to the fore.

This mail is not to castigate you for differing with me, rather it is to say that in the difficult days ahead, when the rest of the world unites to protect turtles, tigers and all manner of increasingly threatened species, it is our children who will be the ultimate judges of what was right and what was wrong. History has a way of judging people harshly and I for one believe that Tatas, L&T and all those who so vociferously defend the destruction of the feeding grounds of the turtles are making a very big mistake. The problem in that saying “sorry” will not repair the mistake ten years down the line.

Just imagine if you were a turtle in these troubled waters. You and your ancestors were able to swim in offshore Orissa for millions of years in waters that simultaneously fed you. Suddenly the benthic flora and fauna is changed by millions of tonnes of silt being thrown about. The food web is altered. What would your response be? Surely to go elsewhere to find a safer, more hospitable place. But that is the problem, such places are becoming more hard to find than cheap housing in Mumbai, or Delhi, or New York.

So the turtles vanish. And a huge port comes up, then a chemical complex, then a four lane highway that replaces mudflats where marine organisms upon which birds feed used to feed. It all happens in slow motion, so humans hardly notice. But the world becomes poorer.

When you are 70 year old Amlan, you will have to ask yourself: “What I did for a living… did it leave this world a better place.” That is what you should worry about, not about my view on your view.

Warm regards and no malice at all towards either you, or anyone else building the port that is destroying my dreams. Please do come over and share a cup of coffee with me when you are next in Mumbai.


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