Don’t let TATA terminate the turtles
Don’t let TATA terminate the turtles
20 March 2009
Greenpeace activists blockade the headquarters of the TATA Group, demanding Mr. Ratan Tata halt construction on TATA’s Dhamra port in Orissa, which threatens the endangered olive ridley sea turtles. Enlarge Image
India — TATA corporation of India is in the global spotlight as they launch the Nano, the world’s cheapest car. But the spotlight ought to be on a costly little secret: TATA’s giant port at Dhamra, which threatens the nesting grounds of an endangered turtle species.
Merriam-Webster has this entry under ‘ta-ta’; Etymology: baby talk-used to express farewell.
That’s apt, considering that the TATA corporation could soon be making us say goodbye to of one of India’s largest marine reserves – Gahirmatha, and with it one of the world’s few remaining Olive Ridley turtle nesting grounds.
Every year, between 200,000 to 500,000 turtles make their way to the mass nesting beaches of Gahirmatha on India’s east coast. This is just about 12 kilometres away from a giant port being constructed by TATA at Dhamra.
TATA is India’s largest corporation and has a growing international empire, with its recent acquisitions of Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus and the Jaguar and Land Rover brands.
In India, the company’s reputation for social responsibility has been considerably tarnished over the last decade, and its performance on the Dhamra project is one of the reasons.
Last tango for the turtles?
Picture this if you will: it is night on a remote and isolated beach, the burning heat of the day is a fading memory, dissipated by a strong southerly wind, and the sky is incredibly star spangled.
Amidst the waves near the water’s edge there gradually appear not one, not a dozen, but literally hundreds of mound-like shapes – female sea turtles, making their laborious way up the beach to lay their eggs.
The turtles have been in the waters offshore for months; what prompts them to choose this exact night to lay their eggs – en masse – is still largely a mystery. This is one of the wonders of the natural world. All the more precious for a world in which there aren’t too many such wonders left.
Here’s another mental picture – fast forward to February 2020. The nesting beach is a thin shadow of its former self due to erosion – perhaps in part due to the massive dredging required for the Dhamra port?
The glow of the industrial township surrounding the port 10 km to the northwest is clearly visible. The lights are not from the port alone – there is also now a fertilizer factory, a coal fired thermal power plant, ship building yard, steel factory, coking coal plant and more.
All of these have been proposed, and are not just figments of the imagination. What was once a sleepy fishing and farming village is now a groaning, polluted and crowded industrial hub, adding to GDP and corporate profits, no doubt. Turtles and other lesser species be damned.
What we want
When the original environmental impact study turned out to have holes big enough to drive a fleet of Nanos through, we asked for a fresh, independent environmental impact study to be made, and for construction to stop until that is done. Seems like a simple demand, right?
But so far, we’ve hit a brick wall.
We’ve built a 103,000-strong cyberactivist community in India on this issue. But the port hasn’t stopped.
We’ve had people emailing, faxing and calling the Tatas on an hourly basis. But the port hasn’t stopped.
We’ve got 200 scientists (many with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to speak up. But the port hasn’t stopped.
We’ve had over 1,500 blogs talk about this campaign. But the port hasn’t stopped.
We’ve had 98% of Tata’s own customers tell us in a poll that the port must stop. But the port hasn’t stopped.
We’ve done half-a-dozen non-violent direct actions against the Tatas. But the port hasn’t stopped.
In India we’ve been attacked, stonewalled, maligned, hacked, spammed, and accused of being in bed with everyone from Al Qaeda to the Bee Gees. But the port hasn’t stopped.
But guess what? We’re not giving up.