Well, it will be slow but should be fine because there are projects in Haldia, Durgapur and siliguri. I dont know wat happend to that Sahara's Sunderban project. HEard thats been shelved..
I guess we can use this thread for watz happening regarding the Highways in Bengal including HAldia expressway, The proposed north - south expressway and ofcourse the proposed port at Sagar island
I think the Sahara project is gone. Environmentalists have opposed it. They managed to pull in big names like author Amitav Ghosh too in their campaign.
But of course we have a tendency to get over awed by big names. They are always considered right. After all who dares to question the likes of AG or Vandana Shiva or Arundhuti Roy.
Here's an article by AG.
Crocodile In The Swamplands
Sahara's misconceived hotel project can only be an ecological disaster
for the Sunderbans and a nightmare in the marshes for any tourist who
might be lured by its foolish design.
In 2003, the business group Sahara India Parivar submitted an
ambitious plan to the government of West Bengal proposing the creation
of an enormous new tourism complex in the Sunderbans. Although the
details of the plan have not been made available to the public, the
broad outlines are described on the Sahara Parivar website. According
to the site, the project will include many different kinds of
accommodation, including "5-star floating hotels, high-speed
boathouses, land-based huts, luxury cottages" and an "eco-village".
Landing jetties are to be built and the project is to be serviced by
hovercraft and helicopters.
"Exclusive, beautiful virgin beaches" are to be created and hundreds
of kilometres of waterways are to be developed. The facilities will
include "a casino, spa, health, shopping and meditation centres,
restaurant complexes and a mini golf course", and tourists will be
offered a choice of "aqua sports", including scuba diving. The total cost
project will be somewhere in the region of six billion rupees (155
million US dollars). In short, an industrial house that has no special
expertise in ecological matters is proposing a massive intervention in
an area that is a designated World Heritage Site and Biosphere
The precise status of the project is not clear. For a while, to the
dismay of environmentalists everywhere, it was thought that the West
Bengal government had already given the project the go-ahead. But
recent statements issuing from Writers Building suggest that the
authorities are currently re-evaluating the Sahara Parivar's proposal.
This is a welcome development, not least because it provides an
opportunity for a public discussion of the project and its merits.
To begin with, it is worth asking whether the project is feasible even
on its own terms. What, for example, are the chances of converting a
stretch of the Sunderbans into an arena for water sports and a haven
for beach lovers? This is an area of mud flats and mangrove islands.
There are no 'pristine beaches' nor are there any coral gardens. The
Ganges-Brahmaputra river system carries eight times as much silt as
the Amazon and the waters of this region are thick with suspended
particulate matter. This is not an environment that is appropriate for
snorkelling or scuba diving. In the water, visibility is so low that
snorkellers and scuba divers would scarcely be able to see beyond
their masks. What is more, these waters are populated by estuarine
sharks and marine crocodiles. A substantial number of villagers and
fishermen fall prey to these animals every year. Snorkellers and
divers would face many dangers and, in the event of fatalities, the
Sahara Parivar and the West Bengal government would be liable to
Even swimming is extremely hazardous in the Sunderbans. The collision
of river and sea in this region creates powerful currents, undertows
and whirlpools. Drownings are commonplace and boats are often swamped
by the swirling water.
Swimmers who accidentally ingest water would face another kind of
hazard. Consider, for example, the experience of an American woman who
visited the Sunderbans in the 1970s: she dipped her finger in a river
and touched it briefly to her tongue, to test its salinity. Within a
short while she developed crippling intestinal convulsions and had to
be rushed to hospital. Bacteria and parasites are not least among the
many life forms that flourish in the waters of the Sunderbans.
The location the Sahara Parivar has chosen for its project lies
athwart the entrance to the Hooghly River, in the vicinity of Sagar
Island. This spot has the advantage of commanding direct access to the
Bay of Bengal while also being easily accessible from Calcutta. But
when the weather is taken into account, these apparent pluses are
quickly revealed to be an uncompounded tally of minuses.
A quick glance at a map is all it takes to see that the chosen
location is directly exposed to the weather systems of the Bay of
Bengal. What would happen if the complex were to find itself in the
path of an incoming cyclone?
The Bay of Bengal is one of the most active cyclonic regions in the
world: two of the most devastating hurricanes in human history have
been visited upon the coast of Bengal, in 1737 and 1970. Each of these
cyclones claimed over 3,00,000 lives, a toll higher than Hiroshima and
Nagasaki combined. The toll might have been higher still if not for
the Sunderbans. The mangrove forests have historically absorbed the
first shock of incoming cyclones: they are the barrier that protect
This is why the people who live in this region have generally been
wary of creating settlements that abut directly on the sea.
That this region will be hit by another devastating storm is a near
certainty, in this era of global warming. Much of the destruction
caused by cyclones is the result of 'storm surges'â?"the massive tidal
waves that precede an incoming storm.
What would happen to Sahara's 'floating hotel' with its restaurants,
helipads, shopping arcades, meditation centres, etc, if it were to be
hit by a 15-metre-high tidal wave and 200 kmph winds? Suffice it to
say that the damage would be enormous and many lives would be lost.
And what of the casualties? There are no advanced medical facilities
in the Sunderbans: where would survivors be treated? Tourists who are
harmed or injured are almost certain to initiate litigation. Who will
be liable for damages: the Sahara Parivar or the Government of India?
And what of the question of insurance, which appears to have been
ignored by the government and by the Sahara Parivar alike? The
'floating hotel' will need to be insured, like any seagoing vessel.
Considering the pattern of cyclonic activity in the region, no
reputable firm is likely to provide insurance for this project. If
they did, the premiums alone would make the project unprofitable.
If there is no insurance, the government will be fully liable for all
damages. If indeed there is a major catastrophe here, the entire
tourism industry in India would suffer a crippling blow to its
reputation. The risk simply is not worth it.
The Sahara Parivar claims that it will open 'virgin' areas to
tourists. But the islands of the Sunderbans are not 'virgin' in any
sense. The Indian part of the Sunderbans supports a population of
close to four million peopleâ?"equivalent to the entire population of
New Zealand. The Sunderbans are an archipelago of islands, large and
small. Many, if not most of the islands, have been populated at some
time or the other. In fact, several islands were forcibly depopulated
in order to make room for Project Tiger.
In 1979, the Left Front government evicted tens of thousands of
refugee settlers, mainly Dalits, from the island of Morichjhapi. The
cost in lives is still unaccounted, but it is likely that thousands
were killed. The eviction was justified on ecological grounds: the
authorities claimed that the island of Morichjhapi had to be preserved
as a forest reserve. It is scarcely conceivable that a government run
by the same Left Front is now thinking of handing over a substantial
part of the Sunderbans to an industrial house like the Sahara Parivar.
It runs contrary to every tenet of the Front's professed ideology.
The Sahara Parivar's project would turn large stretches of this very
forest, soaked in the blood of evicted refugees, into a playground for
Although forgotten elsewhere, in the Sunderbans the memory of
Morichjhapi is still vividly alive: would it be surprising if the
people there took this project to be an affront to their memories and
a deliberate provocation? And if indeed there were to be protests and
disturbances, how would the government ensure the safety of the
tourist complex? Piracies and water-borne dacoities are daily
occurrences in the Sunderbans. The government is powerless to prevent
these crimes. To police the winding waterways of the Sunderbans is no
easy matter and the police presence in the region is minimal anyway.
How will the authorities provide security to tourists in a region
where the machinery of state has not so much withered as never been
It is clear then that even within its own terms, this project is
misconceived. Its chances of profitability are so slim as to suggest
that some other intention lurks behind the stated motives for
embarking on it. Certain other business houses are also said to be
interested in expanding into the Sunderbans, and this may well have
something to do with recent rumours concerning the possible discovery
of oil in the region.
But what would happen if a large-scale tourist project were actually
to take shape in the Sunderbans? What for example, would be the
It needs to be noted first that the Sahara Parivar's project has not
been subjected to a rigorous environmental impact appraisal. However,
several independent groups have conducted preliminary studies and
their conclusions suggest that the effects may be disastrous.
For instance, the floating hotel is sure to have an impact on the
patterns of sedimentation in its vicinity. The consequences are
impossible to predict. It is quite conceivable that the structures
will have the effect of retarding the flow of silt out of the Hooghly
into the Bay of Bengal. This in turn will lead to increased siltation
upriver and it might even cause a blockage in the rivermouth.
The floating hotel and its satellite structures will also disgorge a
large quantity of sewage and waste into the surrounding waters. This
refuse will include grease, oil and detergents. The increased level of
pollution is certain to have an impact on the crabs and fish that live
in these waters. Very high levels of mercury have already been
detected in the fish that is brought to Calcutta's markets. A sharp
increase in pollution could have a potentially devastating effect on
the food supply of the entire region.
The polluting effects would not be restricted to sewage and waste:
there would be light and noise pollution as well. The hotel's lights
would disorient certain species. Olive Ridley turtles, for instance,
would not be able to find their way back to their nesting places.
The Sahara Project also envisages the deployment of a large number of
speedboats and other high-powered watercraft, possibly even including
jet skis. Fast moving craft such as these pose a great danger to
marine mammals, particularly to such endangered species as the
Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris). The high-pitched noise
produced by speedboats disrupts their echo-location systems, often
resulting in casualties. In January 2000, I myself came upon the
carcass of an Irrawaddy Dolphin on the banks of the Matla river. A
huge hole had been gouged out of its head, probably by a propeller.
Increased traffic in these waters will result in many more such
Historically, the waters of the Sunderbans were home to great numbers
of whales and dolphins. British naturalists of the 19th century
reported the area to be "teeming" with marine mammals. Very few of
these animals are to be seen in these waters today. Their fate is
unknown because there has been no major census or survey.
There is limited expertise in this field in India and the Sunderbans
being a border region, foreign researchers have not been allowed to
conduct surveys for reasons of security.For all we know, the cetacean
population of this region has already dwindled catastrophically. It
would be nothing less than an outrage if an area that has been closed
to zoologists should now be thrown open to tourist developers.
These are just a few of the project's possible ecological
consequences: there are sure to be many others.
Tourism is the world's largest industry and it is already one of
India's most important revenue earners. Clearly, every part of the
country will have to reach an accommodation with this industry: it
would be idle to pretend otherwise. There is no reason why tourists
should be excluded from the Sunderbans, so long as their presence
causes no harm to the ecology or to the people who live there. But if
tourism is to develop here, it should be on the model of other
ecologically sensitive areas, such as the Galapagos islands, where the
industry is held to very high standards. The Sunderbans deserve no
less and it is the duty of the Government of India and the government
of West Bengal to ensure that this unique ecosystem and its
inhabitants, animal and human, receive their due.
The Sahara Parivar is not the first to conceive of a grandiose plan
for this region. In the early 19th century, the British dreamt of
creating a port on the Matla river that would replace Calcutta and be
a rival to Bombay and Singapore. In 1854, Henry Piddington, a
pioneering British meteorologist, wrote an open letter to Lord
Dalhousie, begging him to reconsider the project. In his letter,
Piddington warned that in the event of a cyclone (a word he had
invented), the new port would probably be swept away. Lord Dalhousie,
secure on his proconsular throne, paid no attention to this lonely
voice: the port was built and took its name from Lord Canning. But
Henry Piddington was soon vindicated: Port Canning was swamped by a
storm in 1867. It was formally abandoned by the British five years
Over the last few months, due to the efforts of a small group of
concerned people, many letters have been sent to the chief minister of
West Bengal asking him to re-examine the Sahara Parivar's project. It
falls to him now, as a democratically elected leader, to show better
judgement than did his lordly predecessors in Writers Building.
(The Sunderbans form the setting of Amitav Ghosh's most recent novel,
The Hungry Tide.)