Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hon Environement Minsiter Sir, its Call of the City for You!

“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.” …David Attenborough.

Dear Prakash Javdekar Sir, it’s so much of honor for me as an individual & the Pune city too, as well pride that you have become Environment Minister for a Country which has probably richest biodiversity on the planet & it’s not about just the species of animals but the habitats which includes right from snow covered Himalayas to Desserts to Rainforests too Ocean! The more I think the more I get awe about it! At the same time we are rich in human biodiversity to with nearly twenty nine states & seven union territories & hundreds of languages & thousands of food habits & population nearing one twenty crores! Wow, it indeed is some interesting as well toughest job as this entire together makes environment of this country! Here is where I choose the quote by the famous naturalist as it’s the best one to justify the uphill task you have at hand! Sir David Frederick Attenborough is a naturalist and broadcaster & is most well-known for writing and presenting the nine "Life" series, produced in conjunction with BBC's Natural History Unit. And how perfectly he has put forward the challenges as we are a developing country & the very hundred & twenty crore populations which is strength in itself at one hand but on other hand needs food & home for their survival & that’s why conflict between the nature & human is at peak at present!

And at such stage you have taken the charge of a ministry, which till few years back many even don’t know that it exists! But right now I will be restricting the topic to our Pune city & its environment & real estate, as I deal with both fields, so thought of writing you about as citizen of this city. As rarely I will get a chance rather this city will get a chance to have her citizen at such a position where his jurisdiction is entire country yet his roots are very local. Like any developing country’s major city it’s a like a triangle like situation to handle. A triangle of with three vertex; one is home, which is a basic demand of the people living in this city, then infrastructure or we may call it as development which is essential for making people’s living comfortable in these homes  & in between these two vertexes third is the nature, which we have to preserve while balancing the earlier two! The conflict will always be there & the beauty is we can’t neglect any of the three vertexes of the triangle as only by combining the three can make a healthy city which in a way is society in itself!
Sir, I won’t go out of our Pune city as that’s different subject all together & expand of your duty is too vast to cover in one letter! Pune has very special position in our country, not just as a Punekar I am saying it but considering the various establishments in this city & geographical location as well the educational & cultural heritage the city has, makes it a very special city. Not to forget the rich biodiversity the city once enjoyed due to number of forts around the city & the hills in the city! Not very long back it was considered as pensioners city due to its lazy lay back life & the old charm of wadas as well of camp buildings but suddenly in last two three decades the city under the name of IT & Malls & with huge industrial man power demand has seen tremendous growth on all fronts but environment. The calm & quite streets which witnessed tangaw & bicycles with tree canopies covering them have given up for the millions of two & four wheelers & the tree canopy is being replaced by facades of glass buildings call Malls or Corporate offices or high rise apartments. Leave apart the cycles even there is no place for walking on the streets & what we breathe is now carbon monoxide instead of oxygen! You may wonder being a builder how I can write this but then I am not against the buildings as they are the need of very same citizens of the city but some where we are mistaking our greed as need & here is where role of Environment minister comes in picture, even at city level.
As growth is a natural process but how we allow this rather plan this growth will define that its growth or just increasing in size! We have made two development plans of the city & possibly there will be a third plan & yet we are unable to define hill top hill slopes or green belts along the rivers which will be last hope for habitats of so many birds & other species which also are citizens of this city. We have made mandatory Environment Clearance for projects above two lac sq ft built up area but there is no environment clearance required for the development plan of the city, this must be the biggest joke! It’s like you need to have a drinking lisecence to consume a bottle of beer but you don’t need a license to own a beer bar!
Rather if the Development plans i.e. DP or the Regional plans i.e. RP itself is made with keeping all environment criteria’s in mind, then why we will need then the EC for every individual project, making it a delayed development which in itself is mother of illegal constructions. Any law which is impossible to follow never achieves the purpose for which it has been made! Same is happening with every environmental law as more & more people feel they are just obstacles in the development. It may be wrong but the delay in getting EC makes this a factual thing in the minds of developers. When we know how much area is residential & how much for services such as roads, schools, playgrounds & many others then we have FSI & tenement density norms, so when we design DP or RP we know what impact it will make on the city as well surrounding then why we are not taking care of nature as well natural resources like rivers & water bodies right at root level instead making a mockery of it by asking EC for individual project. And then why criteria of two lac sq ft built up area, as even a small bungalow with thousand sq ft area also has some impact on nature, so make it mandatory for every single new structure including even roads, as millions will be using that road! For e.g. take the latest fad of concreting the roads, even the inner lanes of suburbs; no place for vegetation has been left in doing this work. Another example is of nallah/streams channelizing; the entire vegetation in the naturals nallahs has been knocked out & concreting has been done, thus reducing water absorbing capacity of the floor of the nallah as well demolishing the entire bio-system in & around the banks! Why this doesn’t attract environment clearance is what an environmentalist like me will ask! Hundreds of such examples are around us where the governing bodies themselves take no cognizance of the nature around & then entire city real estate is blamed for ruining the city!
Another issue is need of creating biodiversity zones all around & within the city & protects the existing ones. Not long back the city hills were green & were habitat of many birds as well mammals & now event to conserve the vegetation along these hills is difficult for the civic body, even when there are many NGO’s which are ready to help. Our rivers which could have been best water bodies for biodiversity conservation are nothing but polluted scum & we do nothing about it.
Rather it at city level only we need to identify impact of our overall today’s needs & our planning approach for fulfilling these needs. I know Pune is just one city & your jurisdiction is entire country yet if we can take one city as role model & make the development in tune with nature then we can put forward the example of Pune in front of nation & as you know the city from root level, it will be easier for you to monitor the same. Think of creating a post of Environment Officer at city level who will control all such developments & without any time delay as again then protection of nature is considered as hurdle in the development! Think of Creating a Environment Cadre like IAS, all along the country. These persons should be competent enough to understand the impact of development as well nature from within & must be able to decide what is right & what is wrong for the city as whole & act fast on any proposals!  
First of all make the environment plan for the city incorporating it in DP as well RP & then go to micro level. The policies should be clear & with practical guide lines. Another important aspect is execution of these guide lines & any over ruling should be seriously punished so no one will dare to violate them! But at the same time sanctioning should be streamlined & as fast as possible so nobody will be required to feel them as obstacle for their investment returns. As after all sustainability is term which is equally applicable to any development from financial aspect also.
In all this process two very major aspects are missing & they are awareness amongst the common man & population control. As the needs will keep multiplying if we can’t keep the population under control & then any measure of nature conservation is insignificant. At the same time every single citizen of the city should understand his role in environment conservation then our work will be much easier!
If we can achieve this then the city will really justify to its name as educational as well cultural capitol of the country, or else the saying in Hindi, “Naam bade aur darshan khote” i.e. whatever we are proud of ourselves is just for namesake, will be the condition of this once charming city! And for this mission I assure my all support in whatever way I can offer as the city has fulfilled our every need at her own cost, now it’s time to fulfill her needs, which are very little! This might be final call for the city & who better than you can rise & stand for the city from the position you are at!!
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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