Saturday, June 19, 2010

Save our Rivers

As part of our visit to Uttranchal on a recent holiday, we went to Gangotri. This is the place where the holy river Ganga has a temple dedicated to Her. The actual origination of Ganga is in a place called Gaumukh which is about 18kms trek from this Gangotri.

From the point of origin till she reaches the plains at Haridwar, the Ganga is clean, pure and fresh. She is a delight to watch as she gushes onwards like a young damsel full of vigour and cheerful spirit. She supports life all along the way and the entire area surrounding her path is fertile, lush green and heavenly.

Unfortunately, people along the path have not understood that the responsibility to keep her clean is in their hands. All through the plains, people use her as a dumping ground for their waste and convert a beautiful river into a virtual gutter. Towns dump their drainage into her and factories dump their effluents without even treating it. People even throw half burnt dead bodies into her. The increased use of chemicals in our every day lives (eg. tooth paste, wasing soap, cleaning soap etc.) eventually finds its way into our rivers.

All of these leads to a the precious and much venerated river becoming dirty and unfit for consumption. The natural and clean mineral rich river becomes like an ordinary drain within a few hundred kilometers of existence in the plains. All this leads to serious damage to vegetation and marine life in and around the river. What a pity that no one has the courage or the commitment to change this!!

The story is no different for the other revered rivers like the Yamuna which resembles a brackish foul smelling drain by the time she reaches Delhi which not too far away from her origin.

Despite huge amounts of money being spent in cleaning the Ganga, nothing much is really happening. There is an urgent need for people to realise the criticality of this and take steps to prevent the pollution of the Ganga. Strong political will coupled with social movement is needed to bring the Ganga back to her days of glory. People living along her banks should be vigilant to prevent any foreign matter being dumped into her.

The good news is that if we can prevent fresh dumping, the rivers have a self cleansing mechanism and, in a short time, we can see a rejuvenated river enhancing the quality of health and life all around.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Plant, Nurture and Protect trees

I was on a holiday recently in Uttrakhand - a state in India famous for its majestic mountain ranges forming part of the mighty Himalayas. The name Himalayas brings into mind pictures of blue mountains thick with crisp cool air, lush green forests, fresh cool water springs, streams and rivers and snow clad peaks. In parts this is true. One does get to see all this and more.

Yet, over the years, I have seen a steady decline of the green cover. This is partly due to the local populace using the timber for building houses, heating homes etc. I also saw an alarming trend of people cutting and burning trees to create terrace farms to cultivate crops. The other thing I noticed was the devastation to the trees caused by the process of road construction. While there are many who contribute to this decline, the work of increasing green cover is sadly left to nature.

Such a destruction of green belt leads to havoc to the environment. Trees support the entire chain of life starting from tiny insects to larger creatures including human beings. With the disappearance of trees, one can see a steady decline of life all around. Landslides occur more frequently and leads to exposing the rocky undersides of the mountains which increases the heat. The snow line starts receding affecting the water supply. The lives of millions of people will be adversely affected in the coming years.

In my view, we are rapidly running downhill towards destruction and only a miracle or a dramatic change of peoples approach can help improve things.

As I reflected on this, one thought struck my mind. For a long time, our society has ignored the person who plants, nourishes and protects trees. Instead, we reward the person who cuts the trees by purchasing the produce from him. One simple way to improve things is to change this equation. Can we start recognising and rewarding the planter or creator and start punishing the cutter / destroyer? If we do this, more people will be incentivised to turn creators.

There are many who love trees and wish they could do something to help. Most however, get distracted and de-focused over time. There are very few who take action and make things happen. Each of us can make a difference. In our respective localities, we can make efforts to help plant, nurture and protect trees. We can cajole, coerce or convince people to support this movement. Terrace farms can be converted into terrace orchards with fruit bearing trees.

Let us make the earth a better place. Lets become creators of a better tomorrow. Lets us give our children and grand children a greener, cooler and better earth to live in.