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Monday, August 01, 2005

Required: A Fine Balance

As reports are emerging that much of the flooding is due to the choking of the Mithi river, I am forced to admit - I didn't even know Mumbai has a river.

I studied under the Maharashtra State Board (SSC). We studied about the yurts used by the kirghiz and the kraals used by zulus. But the 'geography' lesson on Mumbai was missing. It's made up of 7 islands and a few lakes, is all I can remember.

I think it's important for us to be aware of the environment we live in. Only then can we be concerned when it comes under attack. The Mahim 'nature park' for example was inaugurated by Prince Charles some years ago. It is some kind of 'secret'even to Mumbai residents. One needs a permit to enter it.

Coming to the environmentalists saying "I told you so." While Bittu Sahgal may have raised genuine apprehensions in the case of the Bandra-Kurla complex development, it's also true that environmentalists have kind of lost credibility for opposing everything.

When the Pune expressway was being built environmentalists were concerned that some species of rabbits and butterflies would be affected, if I remember correctly. I think the Expressway has done much good for the environment simply in terms of fuel conserved.

Environmentalists successfully stalled the building of a badly needed second airport in Mandwa. Perhaps their objections were valid - but some kind of alternate plan B needs to be suggested instead of a blanket "do not go ahead".

Environmental protection cannot be only about protecting crows. It has to explain why protecting crows is beneficial to human beings. And giving human beings a better environment than the vast slum Mumbai has become also needs to be included on the agenda of the 'environmentalist'.

And the same goes for conservationists - not all old buildings deserve to be saved. Let us strive to achieve the fine and necessary balance between past and future. Protest is welcome, but so is progress. And the twain has met in other nations. If we apply ourselves, we can do it too.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo! The only acceptable way forward is a pragmatic and realistic balance between development and environmental concerns. I hail from Pune and have been witness to numerous "environmental actions" which have led to degradation of the quality of life for lower-middle-class and poor people - whereas the environmentalists themselves invariably come out of it unaffected.

Mon Aug 01, 09:21:00 AM GMT-7  
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

When the Pune expressway was being built environmentalists were concerned that some species of rabbits and butterflies would be affected ...

The major concerns those credibility-free environmentalists expressed when the expressway was being built actually came true last year, just as they had predicted. There were major landslides on the expressway, blocking one side altogether. The landslide was due to the monsoon, of course, but also due to the long-term instability caused by 1) the blasting to make the road, and 2) the steady vibration of the traffic. Environmentalists and geologists had predicted that the kind of rock formation in the area was particularly susceptible to these problems.

There is no failsafe solution to this problem, as far as I know.

Some of the fiercest opponents of the Mandwa airport were local residents. They thought it would be detrimental to their way of life.

But when those environmentalists raise these issues, well, what's to be done: they lose all credibility.

Mon Aug 01, 10:52:00 AM GMT-7  
Anonymous Venky N said...

well said.. Sometimes I feel like all of mumbai should throw all these politicians ,beauraucrats and builders into the Mithi river. Its disgusting to see Mumbai degrade to a level of gross apathy. The papers should stop romantacizing about the mumbai heritage and all its lost glory. Its neither London nor Shangai. Its a crumbling edifice of the Raj. Let mumbaikars take mumbai back. They have nothing to lose but their possesions, lives and loved ones.

Mon Aug 01, 10:17:00 PM GMT-7  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dilip, one question - did the environmentalists who opposed the expressway provide any alternative suggestions, other than trying to stop the construction ? All they seem to be good at is reflexive opposition.

Tue Aug 02, 07:46:00 AM GMT-7  
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Wed Sep 16, 02:07:00 AM GMT-7  

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