Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Greenery not at the cost of development

Today is World Environment Day. One of the subjects commonly discussed is the loss of greenery.

We all feel bad when a tree, big or small, is axed to make space for anything -- be it a shopping complex, residential layout, railway or road bridge, Metro Rail or children's park. Opposition to these projects are instantaneous when trees have to be sacrificed. Protests are staged, roads are blocked, shutdowns enforced and litigations initiated in courts. It's almost made out that these development projects are merely an excuse to have the trees cut!

For good measure, parallely, alternative models of development are indeed discussed. But often it's too late to undo whatever has been initiated and bring in the alternative. Finally, these projects get the go-ahead, after enormous amounts of time, energy and money are wasted.

For a moment, look at it from this angle. The roads and railway tracks we travel, the apartments that we live in, the theatres where we enjoy the movies, the shopping complexes from where we get our essential household purchases, the schools and colleges we, our relatives and friends study or have studied in... They were not there when the Earth was formed. Most, if not all, I am sure, of them have been constructed after destroying some natural resource like a lake or a few trees.

How right are the protesters when they obstruct development -- by preventing building of bridges or shopping complexes or schools or parks -- when they themselves are enjoying the benefits of development?

Getting into full-throttle activist mode and arbitrarily stopping all development work just because a few trees have to be cut or a lake has to be levelled is a regressive step. To be fair to people who are involved in these projects, I am sure they have considered alternatives. If not, that's wrong.

The solution is two-pronged: one, ensuring that the strict rules and regulations, which are in place to safeguard our natural resources, are adhered to. Two, relocating trees, planting new sapling, not just on World Environment Day, and protecting greenery to the extent possible.

The heartening fact is that there is widespread awareness regarding the importance of greenery. Many corporates, NGOs, resident welfare associations etc actively support green initiatives.

Development and environment protection have to go hand in hand; and not one at the cost of the other.

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