A bitter IPL in Maharashtra

Photo: AFP

HOW MUCH sugarcane can grow on Wankhede Stadium? About 100 tonnes, which is 0.0001 percent of Maharashtra’s 80 million tonne harvest. How many Sahara Stadiums can come up in the state’s sugarcane fields? Three lakhs, at least. But these are rhetorical questions. On a serious note, senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde has written to Indian Premier League (IPL) Chairman Rajeev Shukla that wasting 4.32 million litres of water at Mumbai’s Wankhede and Pune’s Sahara stadia for the IPL extravaganza would be a shame in a drought-affected Maharashtra. Shukla hit back explaining that the grounds would have to be watered anyway, match or no match.

The IPL chief could have pointed out to Tawde that the 4.32 million litres in question would have served the minimum daily water requirement of merely 593 people during the 54-day tournament. Both Mumbai and Pune are part of urban India where per capita requirement of water is defined as 135 litres a day.

He could have also pointed out that the average upmarket Mumbai restaurants would be able to serve just about 800 diners daily if rationed 4.32 million litres for the length of the IPL season. Forget the collective demand of the numerous popular shrines in the state, just the Ashta Vinayak temples around Pune use up many times the volume the Sahara stadium will sprinkle.

But Shukla could not have invoked such comparisons without referring to the mother of all water figures. According to the Central Water Commission, irrigation accounts for 85 percent of India’s water consumption. In 2009-10, around 16 percent of the irrigated cropland in Maharashtra grew sugarcane but consumed 76 percent of the total irrigation water.

Conventionally, at least 1,000 litres of water is used to crush every tonne of sugarcane. Maharashtra’s 170-odd sugar mills consume an estimated 75,000 million litres of water and discharge at least half the quantity as waste water every season. Majority of these sugarcane fields and mills are owned by political bigwigs. As the IPL chairman, Shukla reports to the most prominent of them who happen to run the game of cricket.

Shukla’s predicament is as symbolic as the demand to shift IPL games in the name of water austerity is. Observing a dry Holi or promoting drip irrigation are solemn steps alright, but can never offset the criminal diversion of water for sugarcane and sugar mills.

In March 2010, an adult tiger got into a fight with people and killed two of them in upper Assam’s Sivasagar district. It was rescued by a team of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and treated at its rehabilitation centre in Kaziranga. Subsequently, the big cat was fitted with a radio collar and released in Manas national park.

After 1,095 days of its release, the tiger was recently captured by a camera-trap. Its radio collar has long fallen off but the evidence came as a relief to many who were worried if the big cat would survive and settle down in its new home.

“With less than 2,000 tigers in the country, we cannot afford to be losing individuals to captivity unnecessarily. But we cannot also afford to risk human lives by hastily releasing a ‘potential-trouble’ individual. It’s a predicament that requires careful consideration of possibilities, based on clear understanding of the animal’s behaviour,” says Vivek Menon, executive director of WTI, recalling the bold decision.

This success, the NGO claims, is proof that conflict-affected animals can be rehabilitated successfully with meticulous planning and scientific monitoring. Yet, the cost of this success is somewhat unclear.

The release site, identified as Greater Manas region, is a tiger forest and male tigers are fiercely territorial. There is no evidence to suggest that the collared tiger was not released in another male tiger’s territory. In that case, the introduced male could not have survived without vanquishing the resident male. Should we still be happy that usually the stronger male survives?



  1. Basically you are telling us that we do not take the larger picture nor the context into account. You also tell us that we maybe substituting chance/luck for science for quality decision making? I guess its just about our inability to analyze any situation or issue holistically that is our shortcoming. Is it that only you see it or is it that others too see it but ignore it due to political compulsions as you point out. Compulsions that stop proper analysis, guess you could also include personal, societal,financial and numerous other compulsions which could color our analysis and lead to poor decision making… for these to be put aside society needs to change and the world needs to change; especially considering the mess we (humans) have gotten ourselves into. In the movie ‘Enter the Dragon’ Bruce Lee admonishes a student for looking at the finger when he points to the moon. Seeing the response to some of your articles I realize that most of us bound by our myopic vision or by our compulsions or by our egos prefer to focus or debate on the finger while forgetting what it is pointing to. Rest assured that I too have thought of responding to your article in some cases but did not, but it still means I am no exception…at the same time I hope that you always keep in mind that you too can become the victim of circumstances. Anyway thanks for the numerous interesting articles.

  2. Manas does indeed have resident tigers, but not many, and enough space and prey for more; indeed, camera trap surveys conducted by Aaranyak several years ago yielded only 4 tiger photos. The situation has likely improved by now, but tiger density is still nowhere near the density recorded in similar habitats like Kaziranga, Orang, Chitwan or Corbett. Besides, this new tiger may have contributed to the genetic variability of the Manas population.

  3. But isn’t that a lot of new habitat for leopards? The big Pawar (initials? there are so many of them now) is willy nilly helping conserve the threatened big cat!


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