From Constant Smoke To A Dying River, I See My City Being Destroyed Every Day

Posted by Chirag Verma in Environment
June 7, 2017

With the United States (US) withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the mission to make earth a better planet has witnessed a huge setback. The statement given by the US President, which effectively conveys the idea that he shall care only about his people, is dangerous.

It is true that many countries are struggling to boost their economies. However, if they all start focussing on the idea of ‘ individual growth at any cost ‘, I don’t think we will have to wait for a third world war to destroy our world. The basic question here is whether development leads to destruction. The answer to this question is a big question in itself – What is the intention behind development?

Often, there is a dilemma over what the basic motive behind any development plan should be. I remember the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, which is based on the life of the Nobel laureate, John Nash. In the movie, the protagonist tells us about the theory of governing dynamics and says that the best result is achieved only when everyone in the group is doing what’s best for themselves and the group. In our case, ‘the group’ comprises of  everything on this planet. We should therefore work out a plan that will cause the least harm to others. Ideally, it would be best if we could also compensate for the loss.

A Tale Of My City

I belong to Bilaspur, one of the major cities of Chhattisgarh. Generally speaking, Bastar, which is witnessing the struggle of the tribals, is the region which is most associated with Chhattisgarh.

However, here in Bilaspur, we are struggling to protect our environment. This summer, the temperature rose to 49.3 degree celsius, which has attracted the attention of weather scientists.

No, the city does not lie in the desert region. Yet, it is still experiencing a scorching  summer. The major reason for this is the emission of untreated smoke by the many small industries located around the city. Most of these industries do not follow the environmental guidelines, while the government officials do not bother to enforce them, either.

There is dust all over the city due to an ongoing sewerage project, which has been troubling to the citizens for the past 8 years. The river Arpa, which has dried up, has now become a dumping zone. Illegal excavation has brought the river on the verge of extinction.

Back in 2014, our government came up with a ₹2000 crore plan to revive the river. Given the fact that the effects are yet to be seen, corruption indeed rules our city ! The government has again increased our suffering by ordering the cutting of 4000 trees for road development purposes.

Planning To Fail

With the city’s temperature touching the 49 degree celsius mark, the cutting of trees (to widen roads) will only raise this figure.

To be very honest, Bilaspur does not have a very high traffic density. Yet it still witnesses traffic jams during peak hours. The major reason for this is the illegal parking of vehicles on roads. This a common problem faced by many cities in our country where traffic laws are not strictly enforced.

However, to our misfortune, the government views trees as the major problem. Nature lovers have openly criticised the government’s plan through human chains, paintings, plays, etc. Some experts even state that the road work can be accomplished without cutting tress, if the government plans it in a better way.

But, who cares about the trees? Why use more brain to design a new plan, when you can simply cut down the trees? Clearly, the government authorities are failing to move towards sustainable development – a concept which has now simply become caged in books. When our river was being ‘murdered’, the government was only a mute spectator. Now, because the situation has become extremely harsh, they want to revive it by spending huge amounts of public funds. One must say that this has turned out to be a circus show, indeed!

The Final Mantra

My motive behind citing the example of my city is to show that it is not only the big cities which are facing environmental – smaller cities are facing them too.

This story can easily become your city’s story too – if you keep thinking that protecting the environment is the government’s task, and not yours. Nature is an important part of our culture. If we are causing harm to nature, then we should plan to heal the wounds as well. But the latter part is seldom practised.

Rivers, once regarded as the lifelines of cities, have now become channels of toxic wastes. We participate in plantation programmes, take photos, share them on social media – but the very next day, we forget to water these plants. Think about a situation where trees forget to give us oxygen. But that will never happen, because nature is our mother – and a mother always gives life !

We intelligent humans have always failed to consider nature as an integral part of us. The one thing I have learned from my experience is that social media campaigns, posts, likes and comments do not really change the ground reality . We need responsible action. In this regard, the citizens of Bilaspur are slowly coming forward to work at the ground level, despite the hurdles .

Only when we realise that ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ includes mother nature as well, and devote time to keep care of her, will we stop ‘progressing’ towards the end.

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Image Source: Subhradip Mondal/Facebook

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