The 5th of June is celebrated every year as World Environment Day with much joy and lot of tree plantation, then we litter the place with the plastics in which the sapling was planted is another question. Celebrating the WED is expected to create an awareness in the people about the threat to the fragile earth but the question is has celebrating WED really had any impact in the people particularly those in the decision making?
After reading Bryan Kharpran Daly’s article ‘the shameful plunder’ The Shillong Times Saturday May 28; I realized I was not the only one who was frustrated at the way we treat our nature. It seems like all our efforts to communicate to the people about the importance of preserving our nature is wasted. Our MLAs and MDC at least those who can read English looks like they hardly had time to read the newspaper. Knowing bah Bryan’s efforts to explore, survey and map the caves system in the state and his untiring endeavour to save them, I can only add that the article is not only a must read for everybody but it is wealth of information on the subject. The article reminds us of the unique cave system that the state is blessed with and the reason we should be proud of the caves. Bah Bryan is also the only authority in this subject in the state of Meghalaya and I think his article should be preserved for posterity. But like anyone else who is involved in some sort of nature conservation, bah Bryan’s article too is a depiction of that disappointment with regard to the ‘the shameful plunder’ (if I may use bah Bryan’s own words) of the nature by the miners and a government which look the other way while the nature is being looted and destroyed.
Can we really depend on the Government to protect our mother nature? From what we have seen in the past, the answer is no. Government after another has failed to come up with any policy to protect the environment. The state government’s current policy seems to be mining-centric and not environment-centric; it only caters to the benefit of the miners and the environment takes a back seat in the government priority. Has the government done any study on the destruction cause by mining in the state? Has the government conduct any study to find out whether mining has really help boost the economy of the state? How does the economic boom (if there is any such thing) fare when compare with the damage done particularly to the environment? Can all the money we create from coal and lime stone mining help pay to reclaim even a fraction of what we have lost namely rivers, forest and our way of life?
But environment is a big issue; it not only deals with the way we manage our natural resources, is also concerns with our attitude to everything around us. On one hand the government is to be blamed for the way it had managed (or rather did not manage) our resources, but can we blame the government for the entire environment problem we are facing now? What have we done to keep our villages, towns and cities clean? Isn’t it true that we still live by the NIMBY (not in my back yard) attitude? As long as it is not in my back yard, I can dirty any lane any parks even someone else backyard. This is our generation and the generation before ours’ attitude when it comes to garbage disposal. In Khasi Pnar we say “tang ba lait na kti,” we throw waste anywhere just to relieve our hands from holding something particularly trash. One my most embarrassing moment was when I took my English friend John Hewerdine to “u Moosniang” one of Jowai town important landmark. While I told John the folklore about the image of pig carved on a stone, John was busy picking all the litters that was scattered all over the place. He placed the waste in his pocket and threw the same on the next garbage collection point we found.
I think our children’s attitude towards the nature is much mature that ours, many friends told me stories about how their children in some way are teaching their parents about the important of the nature and at times the children were even upset with the way their parent treat the nature. Ma A. N told me of their trips from Mizoram to Jowai and on the way back, the driver of their vehicle purposely hit a young Leopard and the animal died. Not surprisingly the tribal hunting trait took over and the elders in the vehicle were all overjoyed with their catch. The only exception was a young man who was upset of what he had seen and remained silent till he reach home. Once they reached home he angrily told his dad, you were all happy for being able to kill the Leopard but very soon you will only see them on screen. That was the lesson of a lifetime for my friend Allan. One day my youngest daughter returned home from school wearing a long face, I asked her why? And she said “today they have murdered many trees in front of our school”. Notice her choice of word to describe the incident; she did not use the Khasi word “pom” cut instead she said “pyniap” murdered.
We have report in the press; time and again of dorbar shnong organizing community cleaning drive and the efforts of the village to clean the rivers in their area for fear it becoming like wah Umkhrah. All these are good efforts but maintaining the cleanliness of our village, our town and city is not a one day affair, we need to change our attitude with regard to garbage disposal. This write-up will not serve its purpose if it does not provide us with ideas how we can change our attitude towards the nature and the environment around us. We have all heard of the famous three “R”s of nature conservation which reminds us of what we need to do when we use stuffs that are harmful to the environment particularly plastics. First of all flatly refuse using materials that we know are harmful to the environment, if using these materials is unavoidable, we should at least make sure that we re-use them and then to not just dump them but to try to recycle them. This can be our small humble contribution to save the environment and more importantly to keep our villages, towns and cities clean and green.
The theme of this year’s WED celebration is “Forest: Nature at your service,” the United Nation has also declare this year as the international year of Forest. I think it is time for us to ask ourselves what kind of relationship we have with the nature or what kind of relationship our kids have with the nature. When was the last time we venture out into the forest? A Unitarian Universalist Church in the US organise a year long programme to get kids close to the nature, they organize nature camp, rock climbing camp, trekking etc and the theme of the programme is CRP, connect, respect and protect. The objective is if kids are able to connect with the nature they will learn to respect it and then fight to protect the nature. We need to get our kids as close to the nature possible, we also need to generate more forest area. Our ancestors has a tradition of keeping sacred groves, we can recreate more sacred space in our villages, towns and cities by converting our cemetery and cremation ground to memorial parks. I like Khushwant Singh’s idea of planting a tree instead of setting up a tomb stone on our grave, and why not?
India has also been selected as the host country of this year’s World Environment Day not only because India is an emerging Asian economic tiger, but because of the fact that current government’s policy put a major thrust in environment protection. Recently; in a radio interview I was asked what I in my opinion is the threat that await the coalmine areas of Jaintia? My answer was water scarcity particularly during winter. The silver lining is that villages can make use of the MGNREGS to make check dam and dig ponds to harvest rain water and plant trees in any available space in the villages. Projects like this will not only benefit the village but it is also in line with the central government policy of reducing global warming.