By Ashvini Ranjan , Mysore Grahakara Parishat
June 5 each year, people are called upon to celebrate the “World Environment Day.” It is equated to a festive event to rejoice and be happy. But the term celebrate sounds inappropriate given the current status of health of our earth’s environment.
More appropriately, World Environment Day should be termed ‘World Contemplation Day’! A day dedicated to serious thought to the ways of containing or reducing the damage that man is causing to the environment and threatening continuance of life itself on earth. The damage that the earth has suffered across the globe is true even to our backyard, Mysuru. In our own unique way, we too have inflicted damage to this little space we occupy.
June 5, which also coincides with the onset of monsoon, we are likely to witness a flurry of activity around us. Mostly symbolic, mechanical or fulfilling an official mandate. A day dedicated to ‘tokenism’. The day will be marked with symbolic planting of tree saplings by VIPs or announcing a grandiose environment-related scheme just for the occasion. As the rains recede around September and the tree planting activity comes to a halt, it is business as usual. The trees planted either dry up for want of water and care or become fodder to road side cattle. Even those few trees that are protected by tree guards provided either by the Forest Department or by philanthropists dry up for want of regular nourishment. The drill will repeat around the same time next year with no mention of data of how many trees survived from the past initiative.
The months of March/April this year, the city witnessed an unprecedented increase in temperatures and pollution levels. The ground water table depleted to record low levels. Mysuru with Cauvery and Kabini rivers flowing not too far away, experienced acute drinking water shortages. Those of us who are natives will remember Mysuru as a small city with tree lined avenues, lakes, parks, wide roads etc. The air was clean and never a shortage of water. With passage of time, the city has undergone enormous change. Most of it unwanted. From a city of about two lakh population during 1970s and 80s, today we are close to a million. With more people coming to live in the city, the number of residential houses and buildings have increased. Roads are being widened, the lakes are dying either because the feeder channels have been blocked with encroachments or pollutants entering the lake. The biggest casualty has been the destruction of trees and the disappearance of gardens that Mysuru was famous for.
What is more alarming is the decline of the level of concern and sense of ownership for the city’s well-being by its own residents. Not long ago, Vivekananda Road in Yadavagiri in Mysuru, was widened and asphalted. A few trees had to be inevitably cut while most others had to be trimmed. Shockingly, a JCB was used to trim the protruding branches and in the process uprooted and damaged entire trees. While this went on for many hours, not a single resident intervened to stop the reckless act. Not until an activist visiting the area raised alarm and stopped further damage. It is imperative that the citizens participate more actively in safeguarding the interest of the city. If Mysuru lost its coveted position of being the cleanest city in India to Indore during 2017, it is not entirely due to the failing of the city administration. The citizens too fell short to actively partake in the process.
With the onset of monsoon, the immediate task on hand is to increase the greenery of Mysuru. To ensure ponds and lakes receive unhindered flow of water to replenish ground water aquifers. But a real and meaningful change can come about only when the public become individually aware and consciously take responsibility to preserve the environment. Be it planting a tree sapling, disposal of garbage or voicing dissent when required. To make every authority accountable for the tasks undertaken. Nature has warned us sufficiently and a time has come to take serious note and act. We are duty-bound to leave this house in order for the next set of occupants.
To contribute to greening of Mysuru, the Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP) is renewing its earlier involvement of planting and protecting trees in any and all vacant plots of city with several like-minded NGOs. Every citizen, especially the youth, should get involved in this important task of greening Mysuru. Those interested may contact MGP on Ph: 2515150 or Mob: 98451-13234.