With punishing heat waves, devastating floods, melting of glaciers, cloudbursts, we are talking about the climate change and the way it is bringing more and more dangers to our lives – uncertainty to survive in the wake of the unexpected intervention in the nature in the world we are used to living in. Nature has its own ways, but we, the humans, are behaving inhumanly, extending a permanent invitation to disasters but at the same time we want nature to behave in a fashion in which it has worked for us over generations .
In simplest terms, our generation and that of our ageing parents, take solace in the fact we have seen so much of water in rivers, and brimming fresh water lakes. During our childhood we used to fetch water from springs – the bottled water was not even in text books. That way we are seeking pardon for our sins against the nature from the next generation; sorry, we could not preserve and protect these blessings of nature for you. This is quite unacceptable – these unspoken apologies to the self are meaningless as we continue to plunder the nature and inflict all sorts of repression on the natural sources like water, greenery and so on. We must pay for the sins we committed.
For example, I tell it with a sense of acute nostalgia that during my childhood sun could not penetrate the thick forest cover from Chenani to Batote – a stretch of 33 kms of Jammu-Srinagar highway. The forest was impenetrably thick along the highway. Huge waterfalls and freshets wetted the road, a sort of mandatory stop over for enjoying the beauty and blessings of nature. We were happy with all these bounties of nature. Our elders used to thank mother nature for its blessings, but we thought that nature is permanently duty-bound to oblige us. We never woke up to our duties toward nature. Now a bright and hot son travels along the highway; tree lines have disappeared, concrete structures dot the hills, and we marvel at our accomplishments of having conquered the nature with all the cement and bricks – making pucca homes for ourselves and children, least releasing the incalculable damage we have done to the nature and the consequences we have triggered for ourselves and engaged in bequeathing desertification to posterity.
For us the climate change is an issue, discussed in international forums. We tend to teach our children about COP, Paris, Glasgow, and the list goes on; as if these forums and places were responsible for taking care of the deteriorating environment and ever-increasing erosion of the Ozone layer . That is a mix of geographical and physics lessons. But what we don’t tell ourselves and the children that the climate change is not taking place at distant places, it is right at our doorsteps. That is a telling commentary as to how much nature has been consumed for constructing our houses. We seek protection for ourselves in the brick and cement structures while destroying the universal protection that nature offers.
The 1950s started plunder of forests, nature and filling of water bodies. During Maharaja’s rule, cutting of trees invited heavy punishment. But everything changed after the end of the monarchy – cutting trees became a passion for all those who thought that felling trees was an industry, reeling out huge profits and employment to the jobless through the use of axe. There was a saying, now it sounds like a myth, that river basins have extraordinary regeneration capacity. Chenab basin was considered the best among all. Once that started suffering erosion, helicopters were used to shower seeds. Now, even that won’t work, because the forest land is dotted by the concrete structures. The seeds will fall on the tinned roofs.
In 1980s, Dal lake had overflown and covered all areas around it, as it happened in 2014 as well. Late Shyam Koul wrote, “Dal has taken revenge against all those whose unrestricted greed to construct hotels, guest houses and shop lines shrunk the lake waters.” Nature knows best how to take revenge. We humans continue to inflict damage upon damage on the nature, thinking that it is one a way ticket. Intuitively, we think that nature would stay as docile, quite in contrast to our activism in cutting short its life.The cardinal problem with us is that we think that the nature will stay in its current shape and beauty forever. Sorry, the human inflicted onslaught is also changing its shape and colour. The desertification is replacing the green colour of the nature. We seem to be blind to this catastrophic change.
In India, we have developed yet another harmful culture, compensating victims of nature’s fury – droughts, floods and heat waves. Implementing good governance does call for helping victims of the tragedies of this sort, but there is a question; whether this compensation is the real and lasting answer to the problem. Quite candidly, it’s not. Compensation to the victims is a necessary part to help them out to regain their confidence, but, in the long-term, it requires a wider thinking and action to preserve nature . And already much of the time, not days or weeks, months or years, but decades have been wasted.
What we need is a well thought out environmental policy, which should be framed by taking all stakeholders on board. The governmental efforts have limitations. The political and bureaucratic leadership, in any set up, has a very narrow vision. Politicians are time-servers. Their time-serving attitude, impelled by their eagerness to be achievers, more in advertisements of the self, is terminable infirmity, which leads to their narrow-thinking and they narrow the spaces for trees, water bodies and bring footfalls over glaciers. They count votes, not trees.
A fundamental change in thinking and strategy is needed to preserve the environment. Shun vote politics and optics, get down to brass tacks. An ecosystem is in place already, though we have eroded it beyond recognition. It should be preserved first, before talking and taking of other measures. All the policies which degrade the environment should be halted. The footfall of humans have become a passion to count our success in the fields suiting our political and economic narrative in the present, without caring that how much soil erosion and the losses thereof will destroy the place and future for generations. It is like killing golden-egg laying hen. We must curb this killing instinct.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.