Death of en­vi­ron­ment too big a price to pay

The Asian Age - - Edit -

The death of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist G. D. Agar­wal af­ter 112 days of fast­ing is a very tragic event. His fer­vid sup­port for In­dia’s long river had been a life­long plea to pre­serve a nat­u­ral re­source so it may serve the na­tion’s peo­ple bet­ter. There are huge lessons to be learnt from the Union gov­ern­ment deal­ing with the hy­drol­o­gist and en­vi­ron­ment tech­no­crat who turned a spir­i­tual devo­tee of Ma Ganga. His death is symp­to­matic of the fu­til­ity of try­ing to awaken In­dia — a coun­try whose Prime Min­is­ter’s con­stituency is Varanasi on the Ganga — to the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. If we can’t take care of the one river that means so much to the peo­ple who live along its 2,500- km path, then imag­ine the plight of na­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sources spread across the land. The fast­ing ac­tivist was con­vinced that in four years noth­ing had been done to en­sure the min­i­mum flow of wa­ter even as the re­source was used ex­ten­sively for power and in­dus­trial pur­poses.

The grandiose schemes drawn up to re­store the Ganga re­main mostly on pa­per. Its to­tal wa­ter flow has also come down over the years from lesser build- up in the nearly 10,000 glaciers thanks to de­nuda­tion of the once pris­tine Hi­malayas, in In­dia and the other eight coun­tries in which the mighty 2,500 km range with nine of the world’s ten tallest peaks ex­ists. The fact that ap­ple pro­duc­tion is down is also in­dica­tive of the larger en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age — as re­flected in re­duced snow­fall — that man is caus­ing on nat­u­ral re­sources like moun­tains that give rise to great river sys­tems. Global warm­ing might have more to do with higher snow­lines and re­treat­ing glaciers, but there too In­dia’s con­tri­bu­tion could be more dele­te­ri­ous thanks to the in­abil­ity to give up ther­mal power and in­ef­fec­tive poli­cies against ex­ten­sive crop burn­ing in the win­ter.

In­dia is known to be good at fire­fight­ing and mov­ing at the eleventh hour to com­plete projects. But when it comes to long- term plan­ning, there is lit­tle to com­mend save for the so­lar pol­icy that might just help a tad to­wards mak­ing use of al­ter­na­tive, re­new­able sources of power gen­er­a­tion. The crop burn­ing is just one of many ma­jor prob­lems that af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment. Farm­ers still find it cheaper to burn the stub­ble and straw and pay the fines burn­ing might in­vite. The chal­lenges are huge but if we do no heed the warn­ings like those con­tained in the IPCC re­port on global warm­ing and cli­mate change, we could end up pay­ing the penalty as we have more of the world’s poor who will be the first to be hit. “I have lost Ganga,” were Agar­wal’s plain­tive last words. The fear is In­dia may have a lot more to lose than its sa­cred river if we don’t read the signs. The en­vi­ron­ment is a sa­cred re­source and the mod­erns should know it. The fast­ing ac­tivist was con­vinced that in four years noth­ing had been done to en­sure the min­i­mum flow of wa­ter even as the re­source was used ex­ten­sively for power and in­dus­trial pur­poses

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