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War on Nature

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In his quest for land, resources and wealth, man has been wreaking havoc on Nature, treating it as a mere commodity to exploit and extract from, since the Industrial Revolution. But the situation today is far grimmer than what it was even a decade back, thanks to the ever-increasing and unbridled consumption and consumerism. This is a worldwide phenomenon, leading to cataclysmic effects on the present generation itself, with the consequences projected to be far more horrendous for the future generation. So how can Northeast India be any exception? This is all the more tragic, given that the region is otherwise famed for its greenery, now on the virtually irreversible wane, with the tribal people still having to sustain their livelihood based on the bounties of Nature. Two reports drive home that point.

As we reported on Monday, despite the much-hyped van mahotsav fanfare being held every year in Assam with the objective of planting saplings in millions for forestation, the State’s forest cover is depleting rapidly. Sources have told this newspaper that around 3,396 sq km of forest areas have been encroached upon in the State, and the encroachment has only been rising year after year, with the government doing precious little to prevent it. In fact, the government seems to be just not bothered about the damage to our priceless green cover – all due to human greed and governmental callousness. Green NGOs make the claim that around four lakh people have encroached upon 20 wildlife sanctuaries and 271 reserve forest areas in the State. These figures are appalling. And encroachment is taking place both in reserve forest areas (66.5 per cent of the total forest cover) and in un-classed forest areas (33.5 per cent of the total forest cover). Well, the rigmarole of van mahotsav is absolutely futile – with such heavy spending – when there is no mechanism in place to nourish the saplings being planted every month for them to grow into beautiful and healthy trees for a cleaner and healthier environment and ecosystem. The hills around Guwahati too, once so very verdant, are almost naked, thanks to the freedom allowed for activities such as tree felling, earth cutting, and stone crushing and quarrying. A forest official has not ruled out the involvement of a section of corrupt officials from the forest department, but he says that all of this will continue unless there is a display of will by the powers-that-be at Dispur. All of this boils down to the lack of political will. Or the lack of the desire of the politicians who matter to ensure that such officials are brought to book and awarded exemplary punishment. This lack of desire to be on the side of Nature and protect and preserve her for man’s own sustainable development in the future by coexisting and cooperating with Nature, and not by rivalling and exploiting her to the hilt as is happening now dangerously, is palpable. But is there any adequate pressure on the government by the many green NGOs in the field to do the needful and save Nature from wanton destruction?

Come to the Umiam dam in Meghalaya then, which generates power for the entire State. This dam has now to endure heavy pollution due to the garbage generated by the residents of Shillong, the garbage flowing in from two streams in the city – Umkhrah and Umshyrpi – to the Dongrla river, about five km from the GS Road. The garbage waste comprises mainly footwear and medicine and plastic bottles, with the flow of the waste getting acuter in the rainy season. As an elderly resident of the area has pointed out, earlier the local people used to get enough fish from the river, but they cannot collect fish anymore because the river has become too dirty to even step in and fish species are unable to survive amid the poisonous slush. Is the government concerned? Does it have any blueprint to save the waters of the dam from being converted into a poisonous blend of all sorts of filth, especially hospital waste? And, equally importantly, are the NGOs with a green motive and pompous campaigns based on sloganeering like ‘Save the Environment’ really up to the point where the authorities concerned can be forced into knuckling down to prevent and defeat such a war on Nature? There is a menu for a serious thought then. The War on Nature must be stopped before it becomes impossible for humans to survive, let alone the flora and the fauna.