I recently sent out a Culture Alert (q.v., at www.rickrubens.com/JM.htm) on the Jal Mahal restoration project in Jaipur (in Rajasthan, in India). I am so outraged at the heinous miscarriage of justice that is occurring there, that I am following it with this call to action. PLEASE: if you are in any way in a position to help support this project or at least to help bring this story to the awareness of people who can help, I IMPLORE you to do so.
This wonderful project, which has successfully rehabilitate what had been the festering, putrid, cesspool of Man Sagar Lake (into which the town of Jaipur had been pouring its raw sewage for decades) and made it into a clean, beautiful body of water (now home to fish and waterfowl in profusion), and has beautifully, historically, and lovingly restored the floating palace in its midst, the Jal Mahal, is, as I described in the prior Culture Alert, under vicious and totally inappropriate attack in India's court system. There was a completely proper deal made, agreed to by all appropriate government agencies, in which Jal Mahal Resorts Pvt. Ltd. agreed to finance and perform the rehabilitation the lake and restoration the palace in return for a 99 year lease on a parcel of property on the southwest side of the lake, with the right to build two luxury hotels there. Jal Mahal Resorts successfully built sewage treatment facilities and created a vast wetland effectively to deal with the effluent; it redid the control of the water in Man Sagar Lake to insure that it would be full year round; and it did a magnificent restoration of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh's 18th century palace. At this point they were stopped from proceeding with development of the hotel properties that were supposed to repay the enormous private capital investments that had made to effect these wondrous improvements. The courts not only ruled that they could not proceed, they also issued criminal warrants for the arrest of the consortium's founder, Navratan Kothari, and--most extremely--they ordered that the lake be returned to its original state! They actually specified that the sewage be redirected back into the now-unpolluted lake!
Perhaps most incredibly, there has been no public outcry in India against this tragic miscarriage of justice. Rajeev Lunkad, the architect who has been directing the project has told me:
The High Court judgment was such a radical judgment that it should have evoked protests across sections of Jaipur; but what happens: nothing!! The entire judgment is just buried, no media analysis of the order, no people's protests, no one really even bothered to understand what the High Court Judgment meant for the recently revived Lake or the Jal Mahal.
The article by Revati Laul from Tehleka which I sent around with my Culture Alert (and which provides an excellent summary of the history and legal actions and a very credible political analysis of what transpired [q.v., at www.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Ne070712Coverstory.asp]) was the very first public mention of the situation at all! Fortunately, it has just been followed by a similar, powerful piece by B G Verghese in the Deccan Herald (q.v., www.deccanherald.com/content/261365/mansagar-saga.html). These articles strongly support the Jal Mahal project and call emphatically for this legal attack on it to be opposed and halted.
We must not sit back and allow this affront to fairness and reason to stand unchallenged. While there are numerous problems with many public-private partnerships, and while such approaches are not suitable solutions for the most fundamental societal problems (all of which I discussed in my Culture Alert), there are times when they are quite perfect--and the Jal Mahal project is about as good an example of this as I have seen. In this project, the public good has been advanced on many fronts: a horribly polluted lake has been rehabilitated, a gorgeous national treasure has been restored from a state of unusable decay, a major tourist attraction has been created, and the opportunity for a significant expansion of local jobs has been created. It is all made possible by the application of private capital, attracted by the opportunity for it to be deployed with a reasonable expectation of a desirable rate of return, in the service of an extremely good cause. Everything is lined up perfectly here. And yet all has devolved into chaos.
I want to do everything possible to rectify this injustice and rescue this incredible project; and I ask each of you to pitch in and apply whatever channels of pressure you have access to in the service of helping me in this effort. Whether your inclination is to support the side of environmental protection, historical preservation, good business practices, or just plain capitalist enterprise, this should be a project you can get behind!
Please feel free to contact me (dparrot@RLRubens.com) with suggestions, connections, questions, and any needs you have to get in touch with the people involved--or each other. I know many of you are potentially in positions to help. I hope we can exert some influence here and actually do something.