Postcard from... India


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The Independent Online

Tucked in a corner of what is now a deeply polluted region, where tons of raw sewage is dumped every day into many rivers, the Chambal River has remained essentially wild.

A series of curses has kept people away; the isolation creating a sanctuary. There was an actual curse at first, a long-held belief that the Chambal River was unholy. There was the land itself, and the more earthly curse of its poor-quality soil. And above all there were the bandits, hiding in the badlands and causing countless eruptions of violence and fear. But if bad news saved the river, good news now threatens to destroy it. The modern world, it turns out, may be the most dangerous curse of all.

Today, cellphone towers and motorcycle dealers and satellite TVs are everywhere. New businesses and new schools have opened, ushered in by years of Indian economic growth. Farmers struggling with the poor soil now have fertilizers and tractors.

In so many ways, that has been good news. But with the good came troubles that threaten the Chambal and its wildlife: polluting factories, illegal sand mining and fish poachers. Suddenly, the Chambal is no longer synonymous with lawlessness. Instead, it  means cheap land and untapped resources. AP