Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Vanishing -- our hills and our wild creatures

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

The Indian Express today carried an editorial on October 31 that speaks of a sobering reality, one that should damp down some of the political and media generated hysteria about the unveiling of the world's tallest statue.

That reality is that one of India's oldest mountain ranges, the Aravallis, which has been around for three billion years, is literally disappearing.  Quoting from the Central Empowered Committee, set up by the Supreme Court to advise it on forest-related issues, the editorial states that "31 of the 128 hills in the Aravallis 'have vanished'."  Not by natural erosion, but because humans with no respect for nature have literally clawed and eaten their way through these hills and reduced them to nothing.

Despite a ban on mining in this range, the Rajasthan government has done little to nothing to stop it. Now that the Supreme Court has stepped in to reprimand it, perhaps something will happen.  But even that will not bring back the 31 hills that have vanished from a range that extends 700 km from the east of Gujarat to Haryana, traversing Rajasthan and Delhi. 

This denudation is not just accelerating the spread of the desert, but also affecting the virtually irredeemable air quality of our nation's capital city and its surroundings. 

What is it about our country that we care so little for our natural heritage and instead waste money, time, emotion on cooked up ideas of "tradition" that must be preserved at all costs?  Who will pause and understand the connections between this kind of destruction and the disaster zones that represent most of the urban habitats in India?  How will tall statutes, superfast trains, energy guzzling construction compensate for this kind of loss that can never be replaced?

Also in the Indian Express today is a report based on the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Living Planet Report 2018.  Apart from an alarming loss of animal and plant diversity, India also faces "loss of above ground diversity, pollution and nutrient overloading, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change."  That is a long list of problems. Who is going to address them?

The one species that faces absolutely no danger of extermination is that of the politician. The Indian politician must be special breed.  I can bet there are no more than a handful who actually understand what the WWF report is saying, or can come up with one concrete policy prescription for stemming the rapid destruction of India's natural environment, its true and only long-lasting heritage that deserves to be protected and preserved.

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