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Who and what can prevent the calamities?

Calamities by environmental changes are not natural calamities. Given the human nature of selfishness and dishonesty towards common issues, a solution for ecological concern is a faraway reality. When a disaster hits, the local government wakes for the moment with compensation. When there is global pressure, the government takes a few steps for some time. Those steps haven’t been effective. The government, however, never appeals to the people to reduce luxuries. Instead, it brings more multinationals (MNCs) to make vehicles. It believes electric vehicles (EVs) are better than those which run on fossil fuels. 

Man-made calamities or calamities as a result of fouled human actions are not natural calamities. They are unnatural by unnatural human behaviour. The unnatural calamities have become so natural that the media nowadays finds them unworthy of the front page. These calamities come up routinely in the aftermath of cyclones or deluge by a downpour. Nevertheless, one or another tragedy keeps filling the media space. The governments, as if with a sense of responsibility, declare a compassionate sum to the victims. Thus the chapter of calamities reaches a closure. As the election comes nearer, the size of the mount becomes fattier. Otherwise, it may be ritually nominal. 

Money is no more a solution for any problem. No money can repair a tragedy and recover the loss of life. Those who are responsible for environmental protection have to deal with foul human intervention. However, none is ready to do it.

States like Kerala and Uttarakhand are victims of disasters of erratic weather. Both the States disallow construction in eco-sensitive places in print, stone and sand mining continued rampantly. Mine mafias, hand-in-glove with the ruling classes, ensured that no one heeded to the expert recommendations. Construction in the topographically vulnerable and ecologically sensitive zones continued. None knew where the sensitive demarcations stood. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), headed by Madhav Gadgil, designated 60 per cent of an estimated 1.29 lakh sq km western Ghatt as the highest priority ecologically sensitive area (ESA). While keeping this report in cold storage, another Committee under Kasturirangan measured the Western Ghatt as 1.64 sq. km and 37 per cent of which was designated ESA. The Gadgil committee had underlined the sensitivity of the region and cautioned against any attempt to build storage and construction activities. The 522-page Gadgil Committee reports have become a bunch of moth-eaten. Now Gadgil himself has lost hope in the reports and is helplessly listening to the news of disasters.

The extended monsoon was about to wane without many casualties in the normal monsoon season. However, October played havoc with an uncommon downpour. A district like Kottayam bore the brunt. Many houses had washed out with a heavy death toll. The northwestern state of Uttarakhand also had a similar disaster. First it was in Chimeni or Kavala Para. Second, it was Muktheshwar, Kairna and Kuttikkal. Tomorrow it may happen somewhere else.

The government is busy developing apps to predict calamities so that the governing authorities can relocate people in advance. It is a strange idea. Apps as a warning device and money as a post-disaster relief show we are not ready to learn anything from our misdeeds. The government is still not willing to deal with mafias engaged in sand mining and stone quarrying. Politicians may not commit political suicide. There are more than 5900 active stone quarries in Kerala as against 750 licensed ones. The state has experienced close to 115 earthquakes. The government has lost cunt of landslides, most of them around the quarries.

In 30 years, global warming rose 1.1 per cent and moisture seven per cent. We have seen a corresponding increase in the rainfall and ensuing disaster. It may go up, and we may remain helpless to find a solution. As we continue to abuse nature, we cannot override calamities. Soon, we may see earth becoming an unlivable place owing to our misdeeds. Neither the government nor an expert panel can change the course, but only our self-discipline can. No doubt, our leaders with no knowledge of environmental sensitivities are not bothered about it.

We have the technology and enough sources for acquiring knowledge. We are also aware of the consequences of our misdeeds. It is only when nature hammers us we open our eyes in pain. We are not ready to move an inch to correct our habits. We repeat the mistakes consciously. We stay cool with over-confidence. When disasters have become common, we put up with them. But we cannot escape a bigger disaster if we don’t take up a corrective course.

The government is no longer a saviour. It cannot command nature to control its response to unhealthy human activities. Each individual has to act on time with a sense of responsibility. The more we delay, the worse the consequences will be. The US and other countries kept aside the Paris agreement for more than five years, finally alert after spotting disasters below its nose. Still, can an individual change his mindset? Can lawmakers stop sharing fortunes with mafias, the notorious environmental offenders? The answer is “No” because none is serious about a solution. Environmental issues come up only when a disaster hits people. 

Countries, which signed the agreement also, are not serious about the commitments. They wake up only when they are rattled or when they find the necessity of promoting their business. Behind the carbon issue, there is a questionable business interest. Fossil fuel and alternate green fuel are the same. The much-promoted electric vehicle and vehicle of conventional fuels are the same in terms of carbon standard, after all, a big portion of electricity is generated through firing fossil fuels. The converted fuels are not clean. 

Everything is a façade. There is no honesty in talks of environmental issues. As we continue the duplicitous approach, disaster will continue to strike. The constant change in the human living ecosystem is the order of nature. If that is through a disaster, and if that is our option, let all the concerns over environmental issues be mere talks. 

Sajikumar Nair

Sajikumar

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