by Neeti Raina
Decades ago women from the hills of Uttarakhand revolted against the felling of trees by embracing them and the world came to know the campaign as Chipko movement in India. These women did not hold fancy degrees nor did they have the support of big organizations. But these wise women were aware of the importance of trees, forest conservation, coexistence with nature and the far-reaching consequences of deforestation. They knew precisely how essential it is to protect the environment for the survival of mankind. The message of the non-violent Chipko movement was relevant then and even more so now.
The option of development over the environment does not exist anymore. Now, it is a matter of striking a balance and preserving what we have. If indiscriminate development happens at the cost of environment it will be at a huge cost that the human race will have to pay. It will affect all of us. The privileged and underprivileged, the rich and the poor, men and women and children. Everyone.
In June this year, the mercury in the national capital region touched 48 degrees Celsius, highest in the recorded history of NCR. The average temperature during summer is expected to be around 41 degrees Celsius. This in itself is an indicator of how rapidly our immediate weather system is changing. And the only solution at hand is planting trees and more trees. Though the 2018-19 Delhi economy survey revealed that the green cover had increased to 20.6 percent from 20.2 percent in two years, the crucial very dense and medium dense forest cover had declined. Losing dense forests is not a good sign as it reduces a city’s capacity to sequester carbon as they are the real carbon sinks, it pointed out.
In Mumbai’s Aaray forest, the lungs of the maxim city, the BMC cleared cutting of over 2000 trees for the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation’s car shed. Citizens across Mumbai opposed the move because the city, which is already overburdened by a burgeoning population, will further shrink its depleted green cover. In Maharasahtra, the government is targeting to plant 50 crore trees to shore up the current green cover of 20 percent to the national mandate of 33 percent of the state’s land area. So, the felling of these trees in this backdrop is pushing the city to the brink. It also makes one wonder about the intent of this decision and what drives the authorities to make such irresponsible moves.
Though these are just two examples of our immediate environment, the scenario is no different from the world over. Be it Europe, which witnessed an extremely hot summer this year or the United States, where floods and rains have wreaked havoc, forest fires in the Amazons, or the Hurricane Dorian-battered Bahamas, it’s the same story everywhere.
Out of the box thinking, smart planning and learning to coexist with nature will have to be adopted to save the planet. We will have to unlearn a lot of our old ways to ensure that we protect mother earth and not let insatiable greed and vested interest take it over. Increasing ecological awareness, enhancing social awareness and responsibility towards society will go a long way toward achieving that goal. Above all, we the people have to come together to play our part in saving our collective future.
Children are taught in school that trees absorb carbon dioxide and make clean oxygen, they hold soil together to prevent flooding, provide shade and anchor plant and wildlife diversity. Its time to go back to these basics.