By Nicky Collins:
My decision to write an article on environment was rather tricky because environment is such a common topic among journalists, it is almost passÃ©. Even Paris Hilton has something to say about the environment! Topics like global warming and extinction of species have been discussed, debated, dissected and laid bare so many times that I was hard-pressed to find a fresh topic. Staring out of my window, I was surprised to find that the water from last night’s rain had still not drained into the soil. Taking a closer look, both the reason for the puddle and the topic for my article struck me in a single stroke of inspiration — unplanned development!
I live in a cantonment and I have learned over the past six years that it is a unique experience. For instance, almost each of the 60 odd cantonments in India has at least one street named ‘mall road’ and a market called ‘sadar bazaar’. But the most striking feature of a cantonment is its greenery. In fact, I would be bold enough to assert that cantonments are some of the greenest and most beautiful places in the country. It is only very recently that I realized I have been taking this verdure for granted.
It has become a common sight, at least where I live, to see trees being felled indiscriminately and the road side being remade with concrete. Consequently, while a few years ago it was fun to get wet or to take a stroll during the rain, today it is more a question of swimming through the accumulated water rather than walking. But unplanned urbanization is not something unique to cantonments, it is a rampant problem across the country.
It brings back memories of the 2005 Mumbai deluge. Though the floods were blamed on heavy rainfall, nobody can deny that the antiquated drainage system coupled with haphazard destruction of indigenous mangrove vegetation significantly aggravated the impact of the floods. The recent Uttarakhand flood is also a case in point. Buildings, residential or otherwise, have been coming up with such dizzying rapidity that it left hardly any time or resources to come up with a support system or a disaster management plan.
The need for better planning cannot be starker. Of course, the primary responsibility lies with the government and industries in this regard. But even we as individuals can make a difference by something as small as planting a tree. But no absolute solution is clear. What is clear, however, is that living in a cantonment will never be the same again.