Today, our country is riddled by a number of environmental concerns which has only aggravated in the last few decades. Air pollution, urban floods, groundwater depletion, climate change, humongous amount of plastic wastes and loss of biodiversity are some of the results of the rapid industrialization. Human in his quest for a better life has exploited the natural environment and damaged the balance. It’s time we stop turning a blind eye to these issues and learn from history how to manage our environment.
Traditional India was famed for its engineering constructions. From palaces to temples to tombs, India was a beautiful place of art, architecture and science. Archeological excavations from the Indus Valley Civilization showed sophisticated water management systems like the Great Bath and intricate underground sewage disposal systems that were one of a kind. Dholavira, was carefully planned and constructed between two seasonal streams. Chanakya’s Arthashashtra mentions irrigation using water harvesting systems. Sringaverapura, near Allahabad, used sophisticated water harvesting system to store the floodwaters of the river Ganga by utilizing the natural slope and elevation of the land. Takeaway lessons from Ancient India Recent floods in urban areas of Hyderabad, Jaipur, Patna and Chennai reminds us that unless proper water management practices are carried out, the livelihood of people can be endangered. History always reminds us that we need to learn from our mistakes. The above examples prove that people in rural areas practiced better water conservation practices.
Nature conservation practices in Northeast India
Northeast Indians uphold their culture, beliefs and traditions to utmost importance. These communities meet a substantial proportion of their resource requirements from a relatively small catchment area in which they have been living for a long time. They live in complete harmony with nature. The Meetei communities in the States of Manipur and Assam consider their groves sacred and worship them. These groves offer protection and birds and animals. Also these groves provide medicinal plants like ginger, eucalyptus and bamboo for the local community’s consumption.
There is misconception that people in North East are all non-vegetarians and eat all animal life. The fact is not this as most part of any north east community diet consists of mainly vegetarian food, a lot of green plants/vegetable and fruits. Like rest of India, people in North East also eat non-vegetarian foods as well but they are very considerate and scientific while doing so. Wild animals, deer, birds, fishes, waterfowl and other aquatic animals like snails, insects and crustaceans are very common items in the diet of the people. However, many of these animals are not eaten during certain periods, especially during the periods when they hatch eggs or are pregnant, with the pure anthropocentric motive of sustainable harvesting and conservation of wildlife. Killings during such reproductive periods is considered a taboo.
Some officers of Arunachal Pradesh, mainly of Basar/Aallo area, concerned about the loss of traditions in conserving the rivers/life in rivers, came together to form a group and even started a movement for creating awareness to follow old age traditions and results were positive. Jainism and Buddhism, which mainly advocate vegetarian foods, appreciate such gesture of human compassion towards animals. This all is in conformity with the Indian tradition, philosophy and lifestyle; and North East is leading by example. The river festivals of North East are also examples of appreciation and celebration of mutual understanding with environment. The above examples and the lifestyle adopted by various communities in India is ample proof to demonstrate that the concepts of environment and ecology were clear to the India much before the word ecology came in use in the latter half of 19th century. The need for Stockholm and Rio was felt when it was discovered that the western lifestyle of destruction and exploitation of environment is not sustainable and world was heading for an imminent environmental destruction. The Jain, Vedic and Buddhist traditions established the principles of ecological harmony centuries ago. The indigenous and ethnic people of the world, living in most hostile environmental conditions, had no intensions or inclinations to harm the environment. This is the reason that these communities live in localities which are immensely rich in biodiversity, mainly because they offered equal opportunity to nature to thrive. We have a lesson to learn from the present environment crisis, climate change, global warming and other ecological problems that Indian traditions of living in harmony will win the race ultimately. In this regard, communities which have respect for traditional conservation practices, have shown a path to rest of India and the world to live with environment and that is the true conservation of nature.