Standing today at the threshhold of a doom 04t can happen actually in a split
second in the form of a nuclear holocaust or a germ warfare, the efforts at
salvaging the environment should ideally be people-oriented
AT A function organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature-
India in New Delhi on June 5 on the occasion of World
Environment Day, the chief election commissioner, T N
Seshan said that the burning topic of environment could be
compared to the proverbial elephant which was touched by
four blind persons and wrongly defined by all!
There is no need to go into the details of the proceedings of
the function where several suggestions were made, debates
held and explanations given, except imbibe the information
that there are only five people to every vehicle in Delhi as
opposed to 45 in Calcutta, 24 in Mumbai and 55 in Madras;
and that vehicular pollution alone contributes to 64 per cent
of the Delhi's noise and air pollution; that the quality of the
Yarnuna water in Delhi is in the E category - fit only for irrigation and
industrial uses, and that by AD 2010,
the foodgrain requirement in the
country will touch 240 million tonnes.
What rules our lives anyway?
Environmentalists and their outfits
have emerged as the 20th century
Nostradamus, predicting a great apocalypse if the right things don't just
happen. Dante's descent into Hell perhaps couldn't have been worse. The
emergence of environmentalism in
the last decade has, in certain ways
proved a boon and in some cases, a
sustained eyewash. From forming a
committee for mountain development to wildlife conservation to protest incinerator usage to
CFC phase-6ut efforts, the world has marched a long way in
defining green crusadeering today.
Even as the Habitat ii in Istanbul took off after a yawning
span of two decades (Habitat I was held in Vancouver), to parley the state of the world's teeming multitude, everyone woke
up to several cruel facts about the state of the global populace.
Since many of the situations are being realised as irreversible,
there seems to be a frenetic attempt to pitchfork reforms
everywhere, from anywhere. But the centre is falling apart.
The book Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn, Dianne
Dumanoski and John P Myers - described as a cautionary
tale - makes interesting observations: "What is happening to
the animals in Florida, English rivers, the Baltic, the high
Arctic, the Great Lakes, and Lake Baikal in Siberia has immediate relevance to humans. The damage seen in lab animals
and in wildlife has ominously foreshadowed symptoms that
appear to be increasing in the human populaton." The book
says: "In time, the alarming reproductive problems first seen
in wildlife touched humans, too." In fact, the root of the problem had been grasped by the early 20th century American
philosopher, John Muir, quoted in the book as saying, "When
we try to pick up anything by itself, we find that it is bound by
a thousand invisible cords ... to everything in the universe." No
one seems to have yet picked up the common thread. Precious
little is usually done to resolve any ecological disaster until the
91tuation gets out of control.
At this moment, we are bestowed with a punctured ozone
layer; a massive onslaught of deathdealing old and forgotten
viruses; the AIDS / HIV spectre; a toxic waste inundation resulting in,@carcinogenic food, water, dyes and materials; a struggle
for the right over one's indigenous resources; nuclear' disasters
still lurk around; virulence of pollution; a marauded forest
cover, dying waterbodies and depleting resources, and a madly
Intellectuals may have been
and swearing by the
environment on umpteen occasions
like the World Environment Day or
the Habitat conference. Sustainable
@evelopment anyway is their mantra.
Alternatives naught. But a national
newspaper reported that despite all
homilies or exhortations, 17,000 bio16gical species or sub-species disappeared from the face of Earth, about
26 billion tonnes of top soil was
washed away by surface erosion,
desertification rose by nearly six million ha, 17 million ha of forest cover
was lost - and all this in just one year.
Environmental activism today
should mean environmental legislation strictly coupled with people's participation the world
over, in tune with the scale of degradation experienced in different places. It is heartening to note that for the first time in
the judicial history of India, the first green bench has started
sitting from June 3 at the Calcutta High Court as per the
Supreme Court's direction. One expects a lot from it.
A Poison Information Centre recently set up at the All
India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi would,
besides immediately treating cases of poisoning, provide
information on poisoning induced by chemicals, plants, drugs
and household pesticides. Shimla has reportedly been successful in completely banning polythene bags and introducing
paper and cloth bags for commercial purposes. In this kind of
effort, educating the people is a basic necessity.
In this regard, Anil Agarwal, director of the Centre for
Science and Environment, New Delhi, opines that Third
World issues, being complex ones, need careful handling.
According to him, the Third World must have development in
a way that protects the environment and its people from harm.
And there is still enough time left for us to deliver the goods.
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