Development versus our environment, could this be ‘the’ battle of the century which the whole world has been taking for granted or has been misinterpreting or overshadowing? Or, how do we even rate the development of a country when we also take its environment into due consideration. Felling tens of thousands of trees to widen our roads, all to join the global race for urbanization seems to be the order of the day, but is this justified? For all the wrong reasons, we could be in for a bigger surprise one ‘very hot’ day when we finally realize what we did was a mighty big mistake of catastrophic proportions, an irreversible damage to our environment, our ecosystem and our very means of existence! When we look at the global scenario, the two biggest polluters, USA and China have just about realized this, with their mammoth industrialization and gigantic 16-laned concrete highways running across the length and breadth of the country. And they produce about a third of the total annual emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas. (China is the largest producer of emissions in the world, according to the latest ranking from risk management consultancy Maplecroft. China emits about 6,018 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. REUTERS/Jason Lee). Sad to say, but many other countries are in the fray to join this elite ‘super developed’ bandwagon. And they too have realized that they’ve become unstoppable, much to their discomfort! We talk about how developed a city like Singapore is, looking at its massive industrialization and modern infrastructures. But if we look at it from the environmentalists’ point of view, there is actually very little to appreciate owing to the city’s giant Carbon footprint!
Coming back to a small State like Nagaland, which clings on every ‘untested’ opportunity that comes our way that promises better economy, we could be missing the bigger picture here. It may not need an expert to tell us that we may be heading to a future with no sustainable resource.
This could even call for cross checking and reversing all our development policies, in line with some smarter countries (definitely not USA or China). We need to start dreaming of an ‘environmentally’ developed State and working towards it, not otherwise. In my humble school of thought, a 16-laned highway of concrete cement and bitumen do not necessarily define development in its true sense. It only promises more pollution and traffic and industrialization of course which will soon strip our land of its fertility and most importantly, Oxygen! True, the environment can help us survive if we only learn the ropes of sustainable development. And more emphasis needs to be exerted into this perspective. (Be an example and we automatically become global players, there could be so much the world can learn from us instead). Besides these, Eco-tourism is the next BIG thing, and that’s where we already have so much to offer.
Someone has rightly pointed out that development and environment preservation should go hand in hand. That’s exactly it! We may need to get environmentalists and green innovators on board for all major developmental projects in the State. Green innovators can even include students in schools and colleges. There is apprehension that in the present context, cutting down thousands of trees along our highways and simply widening the roads can cause unmanageable landslides and major land displacement (as the trees, which serve as anti-erosion and catchment agents, which have drastically reduced in number over the years). In some places where road-widening exercise was executed recently, the entire face of some hills has disappeared altogether, causing huge irreparable damage to the environment. I say irreparable because the environment takes centuries to adapt, and in some cases the condition becomes irreversible. In simple terms, we need to think twice before we cut down a tree.
In all wisdom and fairness, I think trees need to be taken into due consideration for all developmental activities, because they may be the very answer to our future. With World Environment Day approaching, hopefully we will all be able to spare a day each for our environment and plant a tree!
Dr. Tolto Metha
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