Have we learnt our lessons after Kerala floods?
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
If you destroy nature, nature will destroy you… There is no denying this fact. Every year, we have one or the other natural calamity: an earthquake, a landslide, a cloud burst or a flood more severe than the previous one leading to a massive loss of life and property but man in his stubborn arrogance refuses to learn any lesson.
The recent floods in Kerala didn’t happen overnight. The tragedy was in the offing for long. The state has been suffering for many years. Innumerable high-rise concrete structures, demolition of hillsides for construction activity, digging of river beds for sand, encroachment of ecologically fragile areas for construction, illegal quarries, the list goes on and on… But did anyone bother? No. The state had land mafia with big political clout as a result of which all illegal activities went on uninterrupted, till one day when nature could take it no more.
The consequences are there for all to see. As it is with greed, catastrophic floods and landslides have no limit. Sadly, Kerala is not the lone culprit. This time it was Kerala. Earlier it was Uttarakhand (cloud burst), Gujarat (earthquake), Leh (floods), Indian Ocean (tsunami).
Have we ever sat back and pondered over why does nature turn so furious? Why have we, the humans, become so greedy that we want to take over every inch of available space?
A few years back when I visited Simla, I was shocked beyond words to see the misery of this queen of hills. Tall multistoried buildings were seen everywhere. It doesn’t need any special intelligence to understand that the future is bleak, but is anyone in the authority listening as to what the nature is shriekingly telling? Leave apart government, are even the people living in the city paying any attention to the catastrophe that’s awaiting them?
I shudder to say that a beginning has already been made. In May this year, when I was in Solan (about 45 km from Shimla), I got to know that Shimla was experiencing massive shortage of drinking water. So much so that tourists who had booked hotels in the city were cancelling their reservations. But did it worry people? No, not at all. Some hoteliers started drawing underground water (a banned activity that attracts heavy penalty) after greasing the palms of local government officials. One hotelier proudly told me that since drawing underground water was banned, he was undertaking the activity at night clandestinely. And this guy is not an illiterate villager, but an educated globetrotter, who vacations at some foreign land every six months (I guess the degrees and money you have makes you feel that you own everything).
Astounded, I told him it’s wrong to do this, not just because it is illegal but also because such an activity is depleting groundwater, for which every one of us will have to pay the price one day. But he just gave me a derisive look, one that is generally reserved for environmental activists. Now, I am not an activist, but I do understand certain simple things as importance of conservation of water and maintaining of ecological balance which makes me speak on these issues…
I firmly believe that most of the natural calamities that we are facing today are “man-made”, I mean human beings are the precursors to such tragedies.
Excessive sand mining, construction in flood plains, dumping of all kinds of waste in rivers and seas, clearing forest areas of trees and other vegetation for commercial purposes, using agricultural land for construction of housing societies, rampant use of underground water without a single thought being paid to rainwater harvesting, excessive misuse of petroleum products coupled with minimal efforts to use alternative sources of energy like wind and solar, denuding hills, excessive intrusion into virgin mountains (adventure trips) and mountaintop mining have all lead to ecological imbalances resulting in nature’s fury.
It is high time we stop and take a look at the misery we have caused ourselves as also begin taking corrective steps. It’s time we begin living in sync with nature lest we reach a point of no return and cause more floods, earthquakes and cloudbursts.