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Don't Destroy Our Only Common Home

Peter Fernandes, SFX Peter Fernandes, SFX
24 Jun 2024

While addressing the students, Prime Minister Modi said, "There is no climate change, but only our tolerance and habits have changed." Are these reassuring words? Nations have been worrying about many things, mostly changing weather patterns. What could be the reason?

Indeed, no spot on Earth is immune to a natural disaster. Certain disasters are often limited to or occur more frequently in specific geographic regions. Earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, tsunamis, cyclones, wildfires, and pandemics are all natural hazards that kill thousands of people and destroy billions of dollars of habitat and property each year. Lately, however, these phenomena have increased exponentially, which is a cause of grave concern. It was unheard of for deserts to be inundated with rain. The floods in Dubai and other parts of the Middle East not too long ago were a shocking sight to behold. Earth is our only home; our lives depend on what it provides, and we cannot live a second without the things that it provides. What's going on? Who can provide us with the correct answer?

Initially, God created the Earth in complete balance with its function. In fact, to hold this balance for times to come and generations to follow, God entrusted the Earth to humans to care for and protect it as good stewards. Is our home safe? The rising temperature is causing a significant imbalance that points to human activities and greed. Nine of the 10 warmest years in history have occurred in the last nine years. The consequences of the increase in the Earth's average temperature range from rising oceans to the proliferation of extreme weather events; these are bad times for the planet's climate. We will finally get the invoice that has accumulated since the Industrial Age. And if the projections are anywhere in the ballpark, it will be a big one: the ecological collapse of the planet. What have you done, O Men? Children cry; please don't destroy our common home!

It is said, take care of the Earth, and she will take care of you. Indians proudly shout "Bharat Mata Ki Jai," but does this slogan emanate from a sincere heart? If this was the case, it should have been proven with actions and not by mere words. The air pollution levels in India are among the highest in the world, posing a heavy threat to the country's health and economy. Many of India's 1.4 billion people are exposed to unhealthy ambient pollution levels from various sources. The nation's capital, Delhi, is one of the most polluted cities in the world, with pollution levels sitting comfortably at around 10 times higher than the guidelines standardised by the World Health Organization.

Consequently, it is imperative and pertinent to pose this question before the nation. Air and water are essential for living beings to exist on Earth. The Creator offers these components freely for all to enjoy without any restriction. However, greedy humans commercialise everything, which directly causes the destruction of ecosystems to support their existence.

The Ganga, which is holy for the majority of the citizens of this nation, is severely polluted with human waste and industrial contaminants. Today, the Ganges is considered the fifth-most polluted river in the world. When Modi was elected in May 2014 to the Parliament from Varanasi, a city with a population of 3.6 million, he promised a cleaner Ganges through his governance and policies. His party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, promptly launched its Namami Gange project, under which 200 billion rupees were pledged towards reducing pollution and rejuvenating the river. The nation has a right to know why "the Ganga has gotten dirtier" after spending so much money. Beyond tragical, it is a travesty because our home is polluted and contaminated.

The abolition of Article 370 by Modi Sarkar had apparent and covert objectives. Separating Ladakh was a part of the hidden objectives to satisfy the greed of a few business tycoons who have lavishly donated to the BJP through electoral bonds. The hunger strike by environmental activist and Ramon Magsaysay award winner Sonam Wangchuck is an eye-opener for the nation, especially those who proudly scream "Bharat Mata Ki Jai." Wangchuck believes Ladakh's fragile environment will be under heavy pressure if the government moves ahead with its destructive plan. Allowing industrial setups in the region could create an environmental catastrophe on the lines of the capital, which it has been unable to tackle for years.

Similar was the blueprint for Manipur. The government divided the people to achieve their objective and allowed the state to burn. The ecologically fragile hills of Manipur ought to be protected. However, extractive mining on lands controlled by indigenous people for high profit is in violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and the statutory rights of indigenous peoples of the state, which is a cause of grave concern.

Wangchuck understood the game plan of this government at the very outset. He asserted, "Some vested interests want to pitch the people of Ladakh against each other (just like what they did in Manipur), but our agitation is not restricted to one community or one district. Everyone in Ladakh is part of the agitation and united in support of our demands."

Just want to remind you that when the nation heard the song "Behti hawa sa tha woh," in the movie "3 Idiots," all were anxious to find their hero, "Kahan gaya usae dhoondo." Where is the nation today? Wangchuck is calling on the nation to protect his home—our common home. Does the nation want to stand with the true hero or with the master of Jumla, who said, "There is no climate change, but only our tolerance and habits have changed?"

A similar fate awaits Goa, a tiny state with unique beauty and a rich history that attracts millions of visitors annually. The present dispensation has never understood the uniqueness of Goa and is on the wrong path to destroy the God-given blessings. One good example is the 'Save Mollem Campaign'—a youth-driven Goan movement against the three linear projects in a sensitive wildlife sanctuary. The three linear infrastructure projects are a railway line, a transmission line, and a highway. The objective of these projects is to transport coal to Karnataka.

Mollem National Park is a part of the Western Ghats, one of the world's eight most significant biodiversity hotspots. The three planned projects involve the deforestation of 250 ha of forest land and the felling of 59,000 trees. The most crucial aspect to consider is that Mollem National Park is also the key to water security and the cultural origins of the peace-loving people of Goa. The BJP government doesn't mind bulldozing everything to satisfy the unsatiated desires of their business partners, who have freely donated through electoral bonds.

Goa has no business with coal. The question is, why should Goa take on someone else's burden when it is very expensive? The naturalist Parag Rangnekar, part of the newly formed State Wildlife Board, says, "The issue is that we are not making our decisions based on good information, good data, and time, but because somebody somewhere wants things to happen." We must remember that the system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, and self-cleansing. Not so with technology. And therefore, the cry of humans is getting louder: "Don't destroy our common home; it's our only home."

Will the Prime Minister hear the cry or brush aside the looming crisis, saying, "There is no climate change, but only our tolerance and habits have changed?" Will the Prime Minister take on the challenge posed in Abhiraj Rajadhyaksha's and Niyati Mavinkurve's video to bring "a boat to India that eats plastic"? Today, the whole human race is in anguish over global warming. Our home is on fire. The Creator had entrusted his creation to rational beings to be good stewards. But, what have you done, O Men!?

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