By Pooja Moitra:
Whenever we talk about the beauty of our nation, no one fails to mention the captivating beauty of the mountains especially the Himalayas. Snow capped mountains, glaciers galore and beauty beyond words. But the same Himalayas that we are so proud to exhibit to the other nations is unfortunately in grave danger of disappearing fast and maybe forever. The developmental programmes and massive deforestation has led to only one thing: destruction, and if you want any proof of that, the Uttrakhand tragedy can bear witness to my statement. But I believe that the whole tragic episode was the ultimate result of the process that was going on in full speed, and that was the process of ‘Development’. The people of this nation are mindlessly trying to change the landscape of the area without thinking for a moment that they are trying to interfere with nature, who in all her glory can be as sweet as nectar and at the same time has the ability to be as lethal as poison.
But amidst all the so called “development”, there are some people and organisations at work, which are continuously trying to strike the correct balance between the nature and the material world. This includes various conferences on climate change, on saving the ecosystems across the world and striving for sustainable development. Even in our country, people are trying to minimise the damage that we have brought upon ourselves and are trying to better their policy decisions to change the face of their country and in turn doing their bit to change the fate of our planet, and thus, the Indian government, having received its wake up call last year, has now formulated the policy namely National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE), launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
Now surely you have come across many of the plans and actions whose target is basically to save our planet but the NMSHE is different in the ways that it focuses only on the Himalayan region and its need to save its ecosystem from vanishing forever. The whole mission seeks to understand the complex balance of nature in that region and also addresses the issue of its protection and the issue of sustainable development in that region. This new mission will attempt to throw light on the following: Himalayan glaciers and the associated hydrological consequences, Biodiversity conservation and protection, wild life conservation and protection, traditional knowledge societies and their livelihood and planning for sustaining of the Himalayan ecosystem. The primary objective of this new mission will be to assess the health status of the Himalayan ecosystem that too in a time bound manner, to help the policy formulating bodies in making the right decisions and to help the concerned states with the proper implementation of the policies and their actions regarding it.
Now again you might think, what is new about this programme? The people of our country are constantly fed these kind of missions whose objectives remain the very same. But I beg to differ for this mission. The NMSHE does not only include the knowledge of scholars (anthropologists, glaciologists) etc., study and predict the future, but it also includes those people who are actual stakeholders of our Mother Nature i.e. the marginalised section of our society living in those areas, the natives of that place. Their first hand knowledge and experience about the region will not only help the scholars to predict the changing trends in the Himalayan ecosystem more accurately but it will also give the natives a chance to participate in this national mission and thus become active members of the society. It also proposes to engage the existing organisations with similar objectives, strengthen, and work with them for achieving their goals. The mission is supposed to cover a number of Indian states namely, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghlaya, Assam and West Bengal.
Modern India, I believe, does not have a dearth of policy makers and policies for environmental conservation. The primary challenge of this mission at this moment is whether the mission would be implemented as it is proposed on paper, or whether it will ultimately become one of those policies that look just good on paper. Many people have heard it but they still fear to face the reality of climate change, of an impending doom on our planet. Time is ticking, and sooner or later, we have to do something to save our planet. The Uttrakhand tragedy was one of the examples where nature proved that if it can sustain, the same thing can even destroy us. In the end, I would just like to quote a line that may help the mankind to understand the need of the hour is not to destroy, but is to protect.
“We kill all the caterpillars, then complain there are no butterflies.”Â â€• John Marsden, The Dead of Night