Below is an e-mail I received from a friend and social activist asking me to do my part to save the Olive Ridley turtles. Ever since childhood when my friend had a pet tortoise, I have been fascinated by the Testudines. I am quite an avid nature enthusiast and this is my attempt to raise awareness and protect the already endangered species from extinction.
I’ve just written to Ratan Tata asking him to not to go ahead with building a port in Dhamra, Orissa, dangerously close to one of the world’s largest sea turtle nesting grounds for the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. I think its a good idea for Mr. Tata to move the port to another location rather than endanger the turtles.
By living up to the Tatas’ environmental legacy, Ratan won’t just save the highly-endangered Olive Ridley Turtles, he will also end up making Tata a better company.
The only problem is that I can’t bring about that change alone. I need help from lots of people, especially you.
The story so far: The TATA’s are building a steel port with govt clearance and it was certified that the port site is not frequented by the turtles. They say that “the port is fully committed to the cause of the environment and are associating with the best wildlife conservation organization to safe guard the interests of wildlife and wildlife habitat”(ya right!). It is also believed that the TATA’s are only part of the infrastructure along with Larsen & Toubro. The port is actually being built by the Dharma Port Company and will be owned by the state Govt upon completion. Various environmental groups have raised their voices over the fact that the port is less than 5 km from the Bhitarkanika Sanctuary, India’s second largest mangrove forest, and less than 15 km from the turtle nesting beaches at Gahirmatha Sanctuary. It is also believed that the port site itself is also a breeding ground for horse-shoe crabs, as well as rare species of reptiles and amphibians.
Greenpeace activists have also taken up the cause and have been waging a war against the authorities for the last two years. According to them, “The enormous amount of dredging required for the port (about 60 million cubic meters) and the landfilling alone will permanently damage the habitats of some rare species of snakes, frogs and crabs”.
Ashish Fernandes has been campaigning against the port and was even jailed in 2006. He has served as the assistant editor of the Sanctuary magazine and wrote an open letter to Ratan Tata which can be found below.
The TATA name is today omnipresent in India, through a choice of affordable products and has today grown from a national giant into an international financial player. At the same time, you insist that the TATA group has a firm commitment to environmental justice and sustainable development. I am writing to ask you to demonstrate that the TATA Group does indeed have such a commitment and it does not put profits above environmental and social well being.
I am disappointed with the way TATA Steel has conducted itself on the Dhamra port issue in Orissa. There has for some time been clear proof of the irreversible effects that this huge port will have on the highly-endangered endangered Olive Ridley turtles. What is even more distressing to me is that you had clearly promised to abandon the port if evidence of turtle presence was ever unearthed, yet this promise is now not being kept. Not just that, despite the simple fact that ports can be shifted while turtle nesting grounds can not, TATA Steel continues to build the Dhamra port.
I have been a follower of the TATA story and role you are looking to play in shaping modern India. Surely a decision to protect the Dhamra area and shift your port to an alternative environmentally-benign site will be more in keeping with the image that the TATAs project, and the legacy left by men such as JRD TATA, than the current position you have adopted?
I earnestly urge you to look at alternative locations for the Dhamra port. Such a decision will raise the TATA standing in my eyes and, I am sure, in the eyes of millions of Indians, not to mention an increasing global audience.
The online petition can be found here.