The present popular mindset points to a very disturbing and disappointing feature which, inter alia, consists of a conspicuous apathy and callousness in so far as issues involving protection or conservation of wildlife or saving environment are concerned. This is terribly a unique trend in the third world countries and particularly in the Indian subcontinent. This is despite the existence of a plethora of statutes and legislations and the consistent rise of environmental activism over the last few decades.
Environmental consciousness is a subject which requires an awareness level that is not easily obtainable in a country like India where, in general, the educational level of the masses is abysmally low. However, the tradition and heritage of the country has placed empathy for other creatures and reverence to the ‘Mother Earth’ as a very high ideal to be followed in the day to day life. Yet, through centuries this noble value has been watered down thanks to endless waves of alien cultures invading this ancient land from across its cultural borders.
In more recent past, this land has been subjugated to a mighty foreign power which has been responsible for tremendous loot and plundering of its natural resources with an utter disregard for its fragile and sensitive environment. This mindless exploitation of nature has cast such an abominable indifference and cruelty in the mindset of the Indians as regards wildlife as well as general environmental matters that hitherto they have failed to come out of that mental bondage and slavery. This has been the case in spite of the influence of the personalities like Tagore and Gandhi.
After independence the situation has not changed at all. With the pursuit of a goal of economic development that imbibed the models of the west relying on heavy industries, the concerns over environmental safety only occupied a back seat, if at all. It only as late as 1972, when the first international summit conference on environment took place at stockholm, the political authority of the land felt some need to do something in this regard. Hence, the introduction of a few statutes on forests and wildlife.
Even since then, the scenario did not change much; however, in the meantime the nation had witnessed the initiation of a new brand of movement in older Gandhian fashion, one notable amongst such was the Chipko movement carried out in the kumaon region of the Himalayas. The later years also experienced new waves of such movements and emergence of personalities who took leading roles in them. The silent valley movement was notable among them. But sadly enough, the momentum was candidly lacking and soon the public life was getting the bad and undesired effects of such callous attitude and mindless and reckless negligence and utter disregard of social commitments and responsibilities of the big business, politicians, bureaucrats and above all, people in general. And no wonder the nation had to pay a hefty price very soon as one of the fiercest industrial mishaps in the history the environmental disasters all over the world shook the nation on the 3rd December, 1984 at Bhopal, the capital city of the state of Madhya pradesh.
However, it appeared that the nation had learnt a very little lesson from a disaster of such an enormous magnitude as continuous negligence and culpable carelessness had got to be a routine affair though efforts to curb this disturbing trend also gained strength with regularity thanks to the guts and initiatives of people like Medha Patekar, Vandana Shiva, Anil Agarwal etc. And the culmination of such efforts could be experienced through the events like the Narmada bachao Andolon which captured public attention and sympathy. With the onset of economic liberalisation more emphasis has been given to GDP growth and thus sacrificing, inter alia, environmental safeguards. It is, thanks to the efforts of the Environmentalists and the activists and the role sometimes played by the judiciary that all has not been lost by now.
Yet, the country has witnessed few major environmental disasters during the last decade ; not only India but also the neighbouring countries in this sub-continent have suffered great losses owing to environmental mishaps. One may consider the case of the after-effects of Tsunami in the Indian peninsula which could have been lessened had the mangroves in the coastal areas had been kept in tact; the same could be said in relation to the Mumbai flood in 2005 and the damages resulting from cyclone Aila that ravaged the coastal areas of West Bengal and cyclone Ceder that caused havoc in the coastal areas of Bangladesh and Myanmar, the earthquake that ravaged Sikkim a couple of years back, one of the main reasons of which was attributable to the building of dams in the high altitude, the recent cloud bursts in Ladakh and Uttranchal, the devastating flood in Pakistan in the last year, the avalanche in the Sweti river in Nepal etc.
It is not only the sudden disasters but also the chronic climatic changes have been contributing to many factors that may affect our lives slowly but persistently in severe ways (one may consider continual floods, droughts and consequent agricultural damages and consequent food crisis, warming in the atmosphere harming crop productivity, pestilence, health problems due to adverse climate causing lower productivity and thus loss in income and so on). And not only the humans but also the other forms of life will be adversely affected and the resultant effect on the biodiversity will jeopardise the entire web of life in the globe, if it has not already been under threat. One may, therefore, logically wonders what type of growth in economic terms the policy-makers are contemplating and for whose benefits! Will they be able to sustain the temporary gains in the longer-run? It seems, however, that the chance is very bleak.
Unless the present trend is checked or reversed the result will be an utter mess- economically, socially, politically and ecologically. The death-knell for this ancient and true civilisation would then remain only a matter to be awaited.
Deepak Agarwal MBA(ITBM) SCIT 2013-2015