In the on-going man versus wild sequence, the wild is definitely losing out. But is the man winning? A series of reports in the past few weeks combined with a recent book on the threatened species of birds in India give a sense of how in mindless pursuit of ‘development’ human beings are destroying our inherited common wealth – the environment and all the fellow-beings in it.
Our river systems – especially Ganga and Yamuna are fast turning into drains, after spending hundreds of crores of tax payers’ money to clean them, our trees are wantonly cut, and the animals and birds are being driven out of their habitat. The Supreme Court in an observation said on 11 June, “MCD (read civic agencies) are the biggest polluters. They allow all domestic and industrial effluents into the river.” These harsh words came when the MCD took a position that it had “nothing” to do with the pollution in the Yamuna river. The Apex Court has taken suo motu notice of a newspaper article in this case. The Ganga Action Plan, launched with lots of fanfare and huge amount of allocation has remained only on paper for over two decade now. Less said about the smaller rivers, the better.
In yet another case, the Supreme Court has fixed a deadline of two weeks to the states to notify buffer zones around tiger reserves. Almost all the states which were asked by the Court on April 4, 2012 to notify the buffer zones had defaulted and hence this ultimatum.
Last week, there was this heart-wrenching story of over 500 animals killed in floods, at the Kaziranga National Park. What was sad was that most of these fleeing animals were killed when run over by speeding trucks inside the park.
A recent book Threatened Birds of India – Their Conservation and Requirements by Asad R. Rahmani (reviewed in this issue) gives a complete account of the status of falling bird population in the country. While on the one hand people feed birds as part of the daily quasi religious ritual, on the other hand, birds are hunted for meat, feathers and other body parts.
While nobody can question the priority of human lives over the other beings, it is equally true that the future of humans is dependent on our co-habitants, the rivers, the mountains, the glaciers and the oceans. And this is a chain that binds all nations and continents. One cannot be killed for the sustenance of the other. For, the lives are inter-dependent. Indian culture is replete with rituals and practices that protect environment and teaches us to value them. Planting a sapling, sowing seed by all members of the family during monsoon is part of the culture in almost all parts of the country.
But in the name of industrialisation, development and progress, India has aped the western model, destroying nature senselessly, seizing from it resources far beyond its capacity to give and leaving the Mother Earth bruised, battered and neglected. The Central Government’s stand on the Ram Setu is a classic example of the government’s attitude and policy towards biodiversity and natural wealth. The Pachauri committee which looked into the project gave an inadequate, one-sided report, saying any alternative route for Ram Setu would be unviable.
As a person who received the Nobel for environment, he should have trashed the project, pointing to irreplaceable loss of marine biodiversity and heritage from this ill-conceived move.
There is a ministry for environment and forests. But these have not played any effective role in protecting our environment. It is not the governments’ job alone to safeguard for the future generations what we inherited from our forefathers. It is the abiding duty of all citizens to play their small parts, teach the growing generations about the importance of conservation, preservation and growth that is equal and sustainable.