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Invisible Injustices - 93

Invisible Injustices - 93

Environmentalism is the latest bandwagon into which everyone in India is jumping into and enjoying a socio-political ride resulting into nothing of any environmental results. Many have no idea of the expected results of any environment management.  Let me enumerate the most important targets of environment management in any country.

1. Perennial forest cover in a country/state/district/block/panchyat should be varying between 66.6 to 75 per cent: in India the minimum recommended forest cover is 66.6 per cent of the area.

2. All the slopes or hilly areas at or above 33.3% (1:3 ratio of vertical to horizontal) should be under perennial forest cover. All the uncultivable areas below 33.3% also should be under forests.

3. Preserve all the natural water springs in any area; build as many check dames, anicuts, barrages, diversions etc. as possible to conserve as much water as possible.

4. Preserve all the flora and fauna of a given eco-system.

5. Implement various types of soil and water conservation methods like terracing of various sizes and types in a given geographical area.

6. Establish organic matter cycle and water cycle in all areas under any form of agriculture.

7. Recycle all the solid and liquid organic and inorganic wastes.

8. Ensure a healthy and vibrant population of humans and animals.

9. Practice organic agriculture and various types of aqua-culture to produce healthy food items.

10. Tap various sources of renewable energy sources.

11. Adopt environmentally sound food habits and life styles.

12. Establish control measures for preventing forest fires.

Each of the above mentioned core environmental activities, implies specific training and technologies. All the environmental activities require long term planning and meticulous implementation with precision. Activities like tree plantation, construction of soil and water conservation structures, terracing, flood control measures, rain water harvesting, recycling of waste water, organic farming, aquaculture etc. need scientific and technical knowledge. Tree plantation should result in 100 per cent survival of trees; waste management means total regular solid and liquid waste recycling; environmental activities under the above mentioned twelve items should be of concrete result oriented action programs.

Netherlands is one of the few countries in the world which implemented a number of environmental programmes successfully. It maintains nearly 75% of its area under forest cover; it has built dozens of huge dikes to control the flooding due to sea high tides; the biggest dike is 32 km long multi-lane high way of 90 meter width and 7.25 meter height fitted with effectively operating flood gates. Seventeen percent of Netherland’s land area is recovered from the sea; 26% of its land area is located below the sea level; 21% of its population lives in areas below the sea level; only 50% of the its land area is one meter above the sea level; Flevoland is the latest Dutch province reclaimed from the sea between 1950-60; reclamation of land in Netherlands began as early as 1300 AD. Environmentally Netherland is one of the most sensitive areas in the world and a worst place for human inhabitation. But the Dutch have shown that even the worst place can be made into most suitable human habitation.

Unfortunately in India environmental involvement is reduced to meetings or social gatherings for art and cultural performances resulting into nothing on the ground. Environmentalism in India started soon after independence. Since then the forest cover showed no significant increase as it remained around 20 percent whereas our national target is to have 66.6% of the area under forest. Environment day is celebrated with social gatherings with entertainments and speeches by invited dignitaries; every year one or two saplings are planted in the same pit by different dignitaries: mockery of the environmental movement: Invisible injustice.

Many religious and priests in India make environmentalism into a spiritual exercise like retreat or meditation at an idyllic location enjoying the beauty of nature with the setting or rising sun. Some spent a week or a month in enjoying the nature and praising the creator of those beautiful things in the nature and comfort themselves as having involved in environmental activities. Most of the church run schools hold cultural programmes by the students and teachers on environment day and upload beautiful pictures in the internet or face book or whatsaap groups. Many NGOs organize entertainment and cultural programmes on environment day/week in drought hit villages having mostly eroded and deforested land. Companies too organize environmental days and weeks as a social gathering with lot of entertainment programmes and tea parties or even dinners.

Following is a sample programme of nationally renowned Eco-centre managed by a renowned Religious Congregation at a world famous place in the Western Ghats holding 8th Friends of the Trees, Eco Seminar cum Fest in January 2019. The theme of the two day fest is 'Environmental Crisis and Rebuilding Eco-system”. The p articipants are invited school children from first to twelfth standard, students from vocational higher secondary education, ITIs and poly-technical Institutes, college students, teachers and the so called ecologists. The programmes are merely cultural and literary competitions such as the following: 1. Eco-group song (Malayalam and Tamil), 2. Eco-elocution (Malayalam and Tamil), 3. Eco-pencil drawing, 4. Eco-quiz (in pairs), 5. Eco-story writing, 6. Eco-poem writing, 7. Eco-article writing, 8. Eco-collage (chart preparation), 9. Eco-hand written magazine, 10.Eco-skit (3 to 4 minutes).  Hundreds of students from different parts of our country are expected to take part in the fest spending thousands of rupees if not lakhs. Mind this is the eighth year of the same programme.

As reported in Hindu on 18th Dec. 2018, that a “Jungle Show” of cultural programme was organized in a Sal forest at Rampur 140 km away from Guwahaty, capital of Assam, attended by hundreds of people. Instead of such mere show and entertainment programmes if the participants were involved in planting and caring 10 to 15 acre waste land with saplings of Sal trees and take care of them up to five years would have been a real environmental programme. Elsewhere in India nearly seven thousand people were congregated into a National Park and made them hug a tree each simultaneously to create a Guinness record. To attract large number of people to that programme they were received with soft drinks and sumptuous refreshments. Such environmental activities are real mockery of environmentalism. Had they been involved in foresting 10-15 acres of waste land that would have been a real environmentalism. 

Thousands of similar environmental programmes are being conducted for the last several years all over India for which many foreign funding agencies are ready to give financial aid. The organizers would glibly say that “we are building up awareness among the people”; “AWARENESS BUILDING WITHOUT ANY CONCRETE RESULT ORIENTED ACTION” is the hallmark of the present day environmentalists in India: Invisible injustice.

The result is increased incidence of drought killing lakhs of cattle and other domestic animals, vanishing forest cover, depleting water sources, frequent crop failures, increasing incidence of hunger and diseases, slow death of thousands of people, increasing farmer suicides. On the other hand fight between people of different states and regions for water like that between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, yearly flood and drought occurring in several parts of our country. The recent flood in Kerala is an example of ecological disaster. Kuttanad the low lying areas of Kerala is similar to Netherland for thousands of years. Yet like Netherlands no worthwhile and lasting solution to yearly flooding was done so far. The Thannirmukkam bund and Thottappally spillways  built for the control of flood still remain ineffective and unmaintained. The people of Kuttanad go through the yearly flood while some other parts of Kerala suffer from drought and water scarcity. In spite of repeated protests environmentally destructive stone quarrying goes on unabated in many parts of India. North Bihar, West Bengal and Assam are areas of yearly flood; but people have never thought of the Dutch ways of managing the flood waters though a joint Indo-Dutch study was conducted as early as 1989. Specifically for Kuttanad several other studies and planning were carried out during the years between 2000 and 2010. Most of them ended up in mutual exchange visits by experts of both countries and so far nothing happened on the ground.

“Indian Environmentalism consists of celebrations and speeches on environment doing nothing: Invisible Injustice.”

(The writer is a retired Professor, XIM, Bhubaneswar.

(Published on 31th December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 01)