Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hon Environment Minister Sir…

Dear Mr. Jairam Ramesh,

Hon Minister of Environment & Forests, India.

First of all let me congratulate you, for completing 1 year at Environment & Forest Ministry, that too as for the 1st time we have got a minister for such a sensitive dept who has enough knowledge base to handle it & the passion too! I am writing this after going through a news in which it’s quoted you saying “To take the forest cover to 33% i.e. the ideal figure is impossible because of increasing urbanization”.This was said at Green Earth Summit 2011 as per the news. Then there was another news, very recent, about elephant entering in city like Mhysore & making havoc, indicating something is very wrong in our Development policies & we are unable to strike the balance between Cities & Forests!

Sir I am an urban developer as well a resident too! Urbanization is a fact & housing is need of the time, we try to strike the balance between Concrete jungles & a Natural jungle is all I can say. We have formed a cell of Environment at our builders association level as to make the developers aware is the imp task along with the customers. Eco housing is something very important aspect for any city & I try to do as much I can on any of the available platform & that's why when I got this mail id I thought of writing u, though I even don't know whether this will reach to u ever! I think we need to take more effort about this right from school level as Environment is one subject which one may read in books but have to learn in field! I have worked for forests, military & each experience has become a case study in itself.

Sir, right from the tree cutting issue, to river pollutions in the cities to alarmingly increasing imbalance of biodiversity ,many issues needs proper policy & not just emotional decision for which our rulers are famous for. Right now there isn't a single body which governs or takes responsibility of environment in the city. And on the front of controlling all these things we have Municipal Corporation, Collector, State Pollution Control Board, Central Pollution Control Board, Irrigation Dept, Jeewan Pradhikaran (controlling water), Cantonments, Urban Development, State Environment Ministry, Central Environment Ministry & what not! My my! It’s like a school with number of Head Masters! And then there are State Electricity boards for power supply who are interested in securing their interests than just power saving as they are now private company!

We need to decide that who will exactly control the Environment along with the Urban Development & it’s out come & how we are going to make the number of homes that too affordable for the urban poor or we can say all segments of the society, so as a balance is made between the two demands i.e.  Environment Conservation & need of homes!

Many of present policies regarding the housing in Metros are mostly out dated or designed on the assumptions that all the developers are thief's (true at some extent) & to avoid development than to make a proper balanced development. Similar situation about forest dept, so many obstacles that when I was working in Ranthambore forest the concerned officer in charge over there was afraid of digging even a boar well within core area, when that was the only source of water to make the animals around survive in hot summer.

Our country is large & probably the most diversified, speaking along scales of Geography, Geology, Culture & Economy. And all these four factors decide the faith of environment of a locality. For example you cant have the same rain water harvesting techniques which you will use in Rajasthan where rainfall if 5" to 6 " per year, in city like Pune ( where I reside) which has rain fall of nearly 29" per year. Then we need to consider their years of life style of using water & economic conditions to sustain the systems we will be using for treating or reusing the water! And this is just one issue of water we are talking about, there are hundreds of such to dealt with, region wise. When we talk about any Metro we just think about Public Transportation, Water & Cheaper Homes & Slums! Is that all? A city isn't just human beings around, it’s the every animal who lives in & around & trees too. Agreed I myself am a builder & know the importance of proper housing, but are we restricting the word housing to just human beings? Then who will take care of all the other living species around! As a city doesn’t mean just human beings within, it’s for all those who reside within, even the trees! The trees are bound to give the way for homes but then who will give way for new trees & how? Today literally ever Municipal Corporation have different ideas but same DC rules & the change takes so long that the cause vanishes till the change in rules come. For e.g. the development plan of my Pune city, it’s nearly 8 years now it hasn't final, then how one can assure proper Environmental control if we don't have the Development plan itself! Now, people will ask what the connection between D.P & Environment is! Well for the very basics, we can start planting trees categorically along the proposed road from right now so when the traffic will increase we could have the trees grown & ready to absorb the emitting CO2! Similar situation about the power ( electric) demand of the city, till we don’t know which area will be under what use, how we are going to plan the power network in the city, which again usually laid along the roads! As well the receiving stations & substations space allocation for proper distribution is must & which is part of the DP. These are just few smallest examples. And we are not being able to do it is a fact.

About forests also, it’s the surrounding people's approach towards the forests which is going to decide the faith of that forest. Sitting in Metros we won’t be able to decide the policy about the Tigers which are reducing each day. The issues of individual forests, like any urban city has to be planned region wise & a draft plan with dead lines to follow has to be prepared. Right now we have Tiger Task Force since last three /four years but what’s the actual outcome? I don't doubt the sincerity of the task force members but repeatedly Tigers are reducing in numbers is also a fact; rather the force seems to be focusing on Tigers & not jungles around the tiger. As the tigers only are not going to survive, it’s the whole chain of species right from its preys to human being around i.e. tribes, which needs to be preserved then only the tiger will survive. And this chain deals with habitat conservation so again we end up at square one of Cities vs. Forests issue & who rules what! 

And again it's not just Tiger, as today it's the tiger who is taking the leash, tomorrow it will be Panther then even the Lomdi or Fox will get vanished. Ultimately they don't have hordes of Karyakarta's running the rallies or Neta's to take care of their interests, it’s people like you & me who have to look after them.

I know we can’t have all the solutions overnight leave apart the results but at least try in systematic manner & let’s go the root level & with wide open view. It's situation around any city in our country & we need a single controller at this front. Any assistance from our side will be at your service is all I can say.

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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