OPINION: Environment, economic development and future

By Hareesh K G

Floods and landslides in Jodupala last month.

“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” These are the words of Mahatma Gandhi. This saying should enlighten us, but unfortunately that is not the case.

When humans originated on this planet, their demands were confined to food, shelter and clothes. As the time passed, demands of humans increased manifold. Today, in this modern era, or to put it more meaningfully, in this consumerist world, his demands have skyrocketed.
In the 18th century, industrialisation was triggered in England and soon it spread across other European countries. In the early 19th century, industrialisation spread to Asia, South America and Australia. If we confine our discussion only to the Indian context, industrialisation gained pace after independence. Industries need basic infrastructure like uninterrupted power supply, all-season roads, good communication facilities, railway connectivity, airports, seaports, and inland water ways among many others.

Immediately after independence, the above-mentioned sectors were prioritised and a huge amount of capital was invested on these projects. Major dams were constructed, new railway lines were laid and big industries were established. Everything was necessary for the economic wellbeing of a country like India. But what about the cost-benefit analysis? According to some reports, analysis was not done, and more surprisingly environment impact reports of major projects were ignored.

In 1991, Indian economy was globalised. To cater to the new requirements, natural resources were made easily accessible to industries which lead to misuse and overexploitation. During the last two decades, we have witnessed natural catastrophes across our country like tsunami in Tamil Nadu, cloudburst in Uttarakhand, deluge in Chennai and Bangalore, and now the floods and landslides in Kodagu and Kerala. The loss from floods and landslides is unimaginable. We, humans, should take the blame for these tragedies. We have invaded and sabotaged nature due to lure of money. Unscientific urban planning, improper irrigation projects, creation of obstacles to the easy flow of rivers and streams are creating unexpected spate in urban areas. Extension of residential areas till the river banks, closure of lakes and water bodies in urban areas obviously create the flood situation. In an effort to make money, all rules are thrown in the wind.

In a district like Kodagu, new resorts, home stays and other commercial construction rapidly increased in the last decade making the geography more vulnerable to natural calamities. The results are here to see. We may come out of these tragedies in some months, but the loss is enormous. It will take a fortune to rebuild the infrastructure and lives of affected people.

It is time to switch our priorities and redesign our development planning. Safety of the present generation and future generations should be kept in mind while creating blueprints going forward. It should be about sustainability.

(Hareesh K G is an Assistant Professor at First Grade College, Murnad, Kodagu.)

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