Yesterday, I witnessed school children from three different schools in the area where I live marching with big placards and drawings to protest against environmental degradation and climate change. A few hours after that, I am reading the Bombay High Court’s verdict refusing to stay the cutting of thousands of trees from the Aarey Forest.
I recently wrote about how the burning of amazon rainforests will eventually get all us all killed. And, I am not exaggerating, not even a bit. Now Mumbai is losing its lungs with the felling of 2700 trees in Aarey Milk Colony region—or rather, the authorities are letting this happen!
I visited Mumbai three years ago around summer; it was very hot and dusty. My cousin’s place was located somewhere near the Aarey forest in Goregaon. We were able to see the forest from her flat. It was big and beautiful and very cool. I got to experience a very pleasant atmosphere—thanks to the clean and cool air from the Aarey forest.
Weeks ago, I found out that there is a move to cut the trees by the authorities for the sake of development, and stars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar were accused of supporting it.
In the verdict which allowed the cutting of trees in Aarey, the bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre said, “The greens (environmentalists) fail in the instant petition because they have lost touch with the procedure to be followed as per law. The clock cannot be put back. We do not make any comments thereon as the petitioner has to swim now or sink before the Supreme Court… The issue is pending before the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal. Hence, we are dismissing the petition on the principle of commonality and not on merits.”
Lack of greenery and related diversity affects a city no matter how many buildings and infrastructure come up in the area. During summer in 2018, Mumbai recorded the highest temperature ever, which was 41º C, the highest in eight years. This year saw a consistent temperature of 36º C. Mumbai air quality index has also reached between 201-300 during this period, which indicates unhealthy air. There have been two floods in Mumbai, both in 2017 and 2019.
The soil quality gets affected due to oxygen depletion, change in chemical composition and other factors. Now, floods happen due to intense heat and resulting condensation reaction and improper infrastructure that results in overflowing or blocking of drains. If the soil composition changes, then it will affect the vegetation, and probably nothing will grow in that area. Since the state has already witnessed two floods, and we can’t know for sure how the circumstances will be in the next monsoon, can the state afford to lose more vegetation, especially with the looming issue of global warming and climate change crisis?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has acknowledged that climate change is real and his government announced baby steps to tackle it, like the fight against single-use plastic. He also announced $150 million credit for the Pacific nations to tackle issues related to climate change. And what is our government doing?
Over 2700 trees will be felled for the sake of building a metro car shed. A car shed. It’s up to the people to logically decide whether they want clear air and avoid soil erosion as opposed to a car shed.
Environmental protection should not be crowd-pleasing rhetoric; necessary actions should be taken. Or else, we are killing our grandchildren!