The year 2022 is drawing to a close. Most say it has been a mixed kind of year environment and nature-wise, but I would say it had been a devastating year! Both nationally and internationally, havoc was wreaked on the environment and biodiversity. Not a single thought was spared for the flora and fauna being disturbed by the rapid haste for development or supremacy this year. Biodiversity and biosphere were sent for a toss!
On the national front, many anti-biodiversity decisions were taken even against the advice of field experts. For example, the Char Dham road widening project in the fragile Uttarakhand Himalaya was approved against all rules of land use. The Ken-Betwa river interlinking project was also given a go-ahead despite the fact that it would submerge part of the Panna wildlife sanctuary. Including the over-ambitious Gomti Expressway between Lucknow and Haldwani in the city development plan was another unmindful decision. It may reduce the distance from Lucknow to Uttarakhand to mere four hours but it will spell doom for the Dudhwa National Park- another wildlife sanctuary. This is not all. There are many such flyovers, national highways, and metro extensions that were okayed this year that would compromise wildlife and its habitats. Importing cheetahs to India can hardly be lauded when the native species are getting such a raw deal! The least regard is being paid to existing green cover and the life forms it supports with a very cunning shift of attention to planting crores of saplings and making records over it. The hype is hiding the felling of scores of lush full-grown trees to fulfill timber needs for development. Why isn’t the government thinking of an alternative to wood? In fact, in UP, there is an overdrive to lure investors to setting up timber-centric industries- and more shameful is the fact that this appeal is being made by the forest ministry itself which is supposed to protect the forests and wildlife! Then, turning a deaf ear to the decade-long resistance from the tribal population, a final go-ahead for tree felling and initiation of mining activity has been given in Hasdeo forest, Chhattisgarh. Same way, mining activities have been allowed in the ecologically fragile North-East region. The authorities have also overlooked land use models in the K-Rail high-speed rail project in Kerala. India is the world’s fourth biggest carbon emitter after China. The main natural carbon sinks are soil, forests, and oceans. But, with the only intent of making money from everything under the Sun, natural resources are being compromised at an alarming rate. Why is this mad rush? Even if the world ends tomorrow, the who’s who won’t be able to shift base to Mars!
Now, on the international front, The never-ending Russia-Ukraine war is causing such damage to the environment that no degree of carbon neutrality would help. Why is the world ignoring the devastating impact of this? This impact is not just confined to that area but will be felt soon in every corner of the planet. Don’t you see how often earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, landslides, and other natural calamities are occurring? Well, taking a view of all these facts, I would certainly not call this year a good one for the ecology and environment. I hope against all odds that the new year turns out a bit better for our Mother Earth.