Thursday, February 12, 2015

Biodiversity, Whose Baby Is It?

“The only biodiversity we’re going to have left is Coke versus Pepsi. We’re landscaping the whole world one stupid mistake at a time.”...Chuck Palahniuk

Charles Michael "Chuck" Palahniuk is an American novelist and freelance journalist, who describes his work as transgressional fiction. He is the author of the award-winning novel Fight Club, which also was made into a feature film. But what he has mentioned isn’t fiction anymore as the way we are reading everyday some new species of animal, fish, birds or any plant getting extinct, sooner or later his words will be a reality! Biodiversity is a matter of concern all around the world & Pune isn’t exception to it! Good part is many are aware about this front of the city & we have numbers of NGO’s working for biodiversity conservation; bad part is the efforts are not supported by govt, common man & media! All is conveniently blamed on specie named builder who builds homes for the specie he belongs to i.e. human being!

In our city as I mentioned many ngo’s are working sincerely making people aware about importance of biodiversity in & around the city. Many of us might know the meaning of term biodiversity but may not be able to correlate its importance for our city life. Many may not be knowing it at all, except they might have come across the term in news paper or taking study of their kids as fortunately now the subject environment science is compulsory from school itself! Or  for those lucky ones who never ever heard the term itself, biodiversity is a term used to define or indicate the richness in variety of species i.e. we get around a particular place. For e.g. when we say Pune’s biodiversity then on large scale it’s the types & numbers of birds, animals, insects, fish & plants we get in & around Pune. Here animals means right from squirrels too stray dogs & plants includes large banyan trees too congress grass & birds includes our local pigeons too common sparrow & fishes means whatever you get form of floating life in the rivers we have, if we dare to call it river! Friends its matter of concern & recently I was fortunate enough to be part of a panel discussion organized by a well known NGO, named biosphere & title of the event was “Pune jaiv wiwidhata, dasha aani disha” i.e. Pune’s Biodiversity Status & Direction its heading! Pune has been blessed with some real crazy people who has given their life to conserve things like rivers, trees & hills of this city & its such people’s existence is Pune’s cultural backbone. Actually they are real celebrities of our culture, to name  a few, Sacin Punekar, Hema Sane Madam, Niand Ghate Sir, Rajguru Sir & Mahajan Sir are these names; all of them have studies various aspects of biodiversity & they are living encyclopedia of Pune's environment! The panel discussion’s guests were who’s who in the field of biodiversity of Pune & except me all others were plus side of seventies by age! Just to inform their authority on the topic, one of the participants has done his PhD on Pune Rivers in 1960! They all has been studying Pune’s rivers, hills, surrounding since last 60 years & very much concerned about the subject. On other hand I am part of Pune since 1986, that way very late & I have seen the river in polluted form only! So I decided just to listen what these stalwarts says & then decide how I will be contributing to the subject!

It was interesting to know things about biodiversity of city from the people who are here for more than 70 years; it was like looking at a flash back of the city itself! Some interesting facts I came to know like, in 1940’s the river water was as clean as filtered water & people used to drink directly from the river, in 1960’s a study of river life was made & at that time there were nearly 70 species of fishes in the river. Presently there are hardly 2 types of fishes in the river & mostly they are Tilapia, an African fish who isn’t native & it has killed every other species. There were orchids along the river bed & the biodiversity was so rich that nearly 200 types of various plants, creepers, trees were found along the river bed from city to vitthalwadi i.e. sinhagad road; now all we see in river bed is hysinth growth & hardly any vegetation, leave apart orchids! Worst is no one knows who has the control on river & its maintenance as PMC says its Irrigation departments job & vice versa! Animals or birds like Civet cat (ant eater), Mongoose, monitor lizard, snakes of many types, peacocks, rabbits & dears were seen abundantly around the city. There were packs of languors i.e. monkeys which used to visit city center in day time & in evening went back to forest areas in katraj or sinhagad. Now their corridors which were in form of huge trees all along the roads from city to outskirts have been chopped off & so are their trips to the city! There were 40 types of frogs in & around Pune & now you get to see hardly 3 or 4 types of them even in monsoon as there are no breeding ground left for the frogs! The river use to flood regularly & the water level use to rise till today’s modern college! The sky at night was clear & thousands of stars can be seen with naked eye & now we see only smog & deem moon!

Well, all above looks like its being talked about some ancient city like forbidden kingdom; kingdom of biodiversity! One of the speakers, who were professor of botany, was in tears by remembering the way she used to take her students for a stroll along river bed & explain the subject live, so much variety of floras was there which is gone now! As I mentioned one thing all of them agreed up on that biodiversity of this city is dead! And it’s a very serious loss as unfortunate part is the present genre doesn’t understand what they have lost! Rather many ask these question what’s big deal, haven’t we making progress, isn’t development more important than some weeds or creepers, what it makes difference if we don’t seen snakes & monkeys around, don’t we have better things on our mind & the debate is on! Very true, it’s difficult to make someone understand importance of biodiversity who hasn’t felt it or lived with the nature!  As today’s needs rather greed are different, all we care is amenities or specifications in our home, our buildings elevations & ambiance of our work places. Our cars & enough fuel for them, obviously cars need parking places & roads to drive. We need water in our taps & up to until it’s there we care a damn, how & from where it’s coming! We don’t care that our roads are encroaching river beds destroying every vegetation there & our garbage dumping in river is killing habitats of hundreds of birds & fishes.  

We call our self wise & intelligent & at the same time we think we are the only specie who has right on every natural resource the earth has! We are so blind in our greed that we have forgotten that development doesn’t mean destruction of other species! And when it comes to take the responsibility of the damage we have done we point our fingers to each others! Though there was some good facts also shared, such as Pune is probably richest in biodiversity of species of big trees in country as a city; with nearly 500 hundred types of trees in & around the city! There were only 14 gardens in 1940 & now there are 114 gardens around the city! But this is not enough, unless some real positive steps are taken the future looks black on biodiversity front is a naked truth & for that someone has to be come forward to take ultimate responsibility of biodiversity! And that someone lives in each of us & not in form of any govt department or ngo!

After listening to what the city was & now what it has become, for a moment I was really speechless; though I too have seen my share as when I came to this city, nearly thirty years back & it was surely much more livable then. But population, pollution & failure in planning are the curse we have got & that’s why the city has come to the stage of loss of biodiversity. When all eyes turned at me, all I could say was, “Yes, I m responsible for whatever damage the city has faced on biodiversity front & I should play my role to restore it as a builder!” We can’t go & live on trees or in open; however we may love nature & respect the environment. But we can build our structures keeping in mind what damage we have made to our surrounding biodiversity & how we are going to patch it up. In nature there is no command like “undo’, as whatever we have destroyed it has been here for ages & we just destructed it in few years! So the huge open drain we call river will take ages to flow again in normal mode & make people able to drink water from it directly & then again there will be life in & along the river; but at least we can start the process from today & from me! I can plant as many trees & make them survive while I build my buildings along. One major front is making people aware about their role as an individual in conserving biodiversity, which as a builder I can surely do with my customers. Many a times when I walk along a bridge on river near my residence , there is a board on the bridge appealing people not to put garbage in river, especially residuals from the Puja of God at their respective homes. But each day I see some person standing right below the board & throwing their garbage in the river. Well these are no builders, they are just common citizen of the city like you & me & by this simple act they are damaging a water body which was home to many species. But they don’t understand impact of their small act & there is no one who is telling this to them! I think as a builder I should promote not only my buildings but importance of conserving nature also & best way is by my own acts!

To make this possible the builders should be open as well accessible to people like Sane madam or Mahajan sir & take their guidance in planning stage itself while making any project. The environmentalists also need to change their attitude towards the builders as ultimately builders are the one who are going to build the buildings, so unless they haven’t been taken in confidence the change won’t be possible! There is strong need of a common platform where the builders & the environmentalists should come together as there lies the future of biodiversity. 
For this cause media also has role to play as no news of such efforts or seminars ever makes to front page, so how the common man will get aware about all these matters? Why can’t like sports or finance page each newspaper have a  “green page”, where information will be shared as well efforts of individuals on green fronts will be made public! Whatever damage has been made to the biodiversity, each of us is somewhere responsible for that, may it be directly or indirectly. Many will say how come I am responsible as I never throw garbage in river, I have never cut a tree neither I have killed any sparrow! Well, does our job ends just by doing nothing, as it’s high time to ask ourselves, what I have done to conserve the biodiversity & not to boost about what I haven’t done to damage it! Ask have a planted a single tree & tried to make it survive. Ask to your builder what he does about conserving biodiversity while building his buildings. Ask to your elected member that why the stream which are nallah has been concretized instead conserving the plants & trees along them. Ask to area engineer of the local body why the roads are being hard paved with no soil exposed which could have been used for absorbing rain water as well can be dust baths for sparrows. Write to every media including Face book, what you feel for nature around & make every person you know aware about his duties for the same. At least start raising your voice on everything which you feel should have been done for the nature conservation & isn’t being done!

Friends’ biodiversity around us is what makes our life colorful & livable; instead of trying to explain it in words one should learn to live the term. It’s said that each specie has a life cycle of seven million years, & human species has completed its two million already but these two million years are equal or more than seven million years the way we have destructed other specie’s life cycles & in the process our own also! So we don’t have five million years in our hand, all we have to conserve the nature is today; if we understand this basic truth then there is point in calling ourselves humans or else we don’t have a chance to survive even what dinosaurs’ had! The end will be worst than we imagine as it will be a life without any color or fragrance but black & whites around. And even if we survive there will be nothing worth to live for!

 Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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