Green Signals Versus Green Activism

With growing urbanisation posing environmental hazards for our country, the term ‘green activism’ is fast gaining popularity. Even in the past, people were raging fights to safeguard the environment but today the activism has graduated to become a popular phenomenon. Why do we need to shed our callousness and take up this cause seriously?

Feburary 7, Pune: On the outskirts of the city, 25 kms away from the mainland of Pune is a village named Lavale. It houses a state-of-the-art educational institute, in the arms of lush green hills. Anurag Shah, a student living here for the last two years is perturbed by the sight he witnesses on the hills located opposite Lavale.

“When I came to this place in 2009, the surrounding hills were pristine, untouched by human activity. With every passing month I could see dumper trucks, cranes and construction material plying on these hills. Today, most of the hill tops have a cluster of new buildings and towers. In some time to come, they might become new tourist hot spots of the Western ghats,” says a dejected Anurag.

This is just a case unnoticed. There are several such exploitations meted to the environment in the name of development. Rather than waiting for the damage to occur, ‘green activism’ involves taking up the charge pro-actively.

One such enthusiast is a businessman from Rajasthan, Kishore Khimawat, who planted over 2 lakh neem trees in the barren lands of Pali district. “I saw the plight of the villagers and thought of putting my money into good use. We had to develop an extensive plan right from the plantation of trees to nurturing them regularly,” says Khimawat, popularly known as the Messiah of Pali.
Today, the area gets adequate seasonal rainfall which has assisted agriculture, increased the groundwater level, and filled up the dry wells and lakes. “It is very difficult for the common man to take up an environmental cause without government’s support. The highest authorities should stop playing politics around the environment and get into some visible action,” adds Khimawat.
Blinding fast urbanisation is leading to violation of the environment, posing a great threat to our future generations. “I am terrified to think about starting a family, because I don’t want my child to live in a world where death looms over his head all the time. We have global examples in front of our eyes – record breaking winters and subzero temperatures in Europe, simultaneous drought and flood in different parts of Australia, non-seasonal downpours in Maharashtra. All these natural disasters are actually man-made,” says Shashwati Sharma, a social activist from Delhi.

In the recent months, newspaper headlines have spoken volumes on how politics plays a pivotal but unrecommended role in handling environmental issues. Vedanta’s site and the Korean giant POSCO’s plant in Orissa, Adarsh society, Navi Mumbai airport and the proposed Jaitapur nuclear plant in the Konkan belt- all these signifiers of development have squashed all hopes of environment activists.

It was revealed that there were violations of the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) norms by Adarsh society. Will the building be demolished? The clearance for the Navi Mumbai airport construction involves blasting a hillock and changing the course of a tidal water body, Ulwe. The airport site has 161 hectares of mangrove plantation. The Environmental Ministry has recommended the plantation of 678 hectares of mangrove around the airport after completion. Whether this measure would be taken up after the construction or not, is still to be seen?
There are also issues of overlooking the rights of forest dwellers and the hazardous effects of development on local ecology. The Vedanta and POSCO plants in Orissa, witnessed a relentless protest from the natives but all falling to deaf ears. The Environmental Ministry finally gave clearance to both the projects after remaining hesitant for a few years. Similarly, the proposed nuclear plant in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, poses great threat to the flora and fauna of the Konkan coast. The development would also affect the lives of several fishermen. The natives fear a Bhopal gas tragedy like incident in the future. There is an ongoing resistance against the plant. Let us see how much time does the government take to award a ‘green signal’ to the project by putting ‘green activism’ out of question?

Neeti Sharma

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