Friday, July 27, 2018

Environment Report, Reloaded!

“Unfortunately our progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the environment around our so called developed life style.”  George Monbiot.

George Joshua Richard Monbiot is a British writer known for his environmental, political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books & I am sure none has been read by our rulers as we believe in “Swadeshi” so even the “Videshi” knowledge is also taboo for us or else such powerful words by Monbit would have been start of the so called “Environment Report” (ER) by our local bodies (read PMC & PCMC). Every years month of July we have a farce named ER which is like a ritual of Pandharpur Wari & it has to be completed in predefined mannered by all the concerned with ER. Like the administration which prepares ER gives all sorts of statistics about Population, Vehicles, Migrants in the city, Flora & Fauna in the city & many such in this ER. And our rulers (read elected members) don’t even take any effort to go through this report but gives statement to the press that this is repeat of last year’s ER & is nothing but a cut paste report. Yet eventually the General Body (all elected members) pass the ER as it is! Joke is the ER is produced right after World Environment Day ie 5th June, so this year also the yearly ritual completed happily & the progress of the city continues on the dead body of environment of the city! It’s like just the way Hollywood hit movie franchisees does i.e. naming it reloaded for the sequel i.e. Matrix Reloaded, on same line its Environment Report Reloaded!

What I wonder is all these so called elected members which actually are representation of the Pune’s citizens (PCMC for Pimpri Chinchwad) are smart or fast enough to give bite to the media immediately about “Cut Paste” ER or repeating last year’s statistics in ER but conveniently forgets their own Cut Paste behavior throughout the year on the environment aspect of the city! And beauty is on this front all political parties display same attitude as well yesterday’s ruling party may be today’s opposition party but the approach (read ignorance) towards the environment conservation is same! Or else who is supposed to change the figures in ER which are indication of degradation of nature, environment, bio-diversity & quality of life in this city but not our own elected members! I have never come across a news in media that some elected member (read Mananiya) carrying ER copy with him or her all the way home & going back to his ward (read constituency) & explaining importance of ER to his ward’s residents as well trying to make them aware about their role in making a bit positive ER which means better environment for all! As then only the figures in the ER will change regarding the pollution levels of air or river water quality will become better or we can see birds like mainas, sparrows or bulbuls instead crows & kites hovering all day long on garbage & filth around!

Now coming back to the Environment Report i.e. ER & its outcome, I think high time the importance should be given to the ER’s findings as well the action plan & fixing responsibilities for the same! What’s most important is what has been done with the last years ER & what has not been done, that also must be covered in the ER & who is supposed to do what, for the environment conservation in the city! As then only we can have some hope to conserve whatever little environment has been left in this city! The problem is we are so engrossed in our revenues & for that we give importance to only to those aspects of planning i.e. FSI, TDR & TOD i.e. more FSI for making Metro like proposal feasible. Indeed these terms are important but then what’s use of all this FSI if the city won’t remain livable, is the question we need to ask first! Interestingly this year’s ER mentions a figure of migrants to the city (though I wonder how it’s been worked out) i.e. the population (of-course that of human beings) coming in this city for various purposes has been slightly decreased first time in last few years! Typical Punekar will say, good at least there will be less crowd but its alarming as people come here from all the corners of the State & even country for work as well education & it’s these people who helps in increasing creating trade in the city as well contributes for revenue generation for the city. And do mind thousands of people have chosen this city as their home because the city offered good culture as well good environment too. But seems we are killing both as going by the news papers headlines slowly the city is turning as criminal hub of the State with every sort of crime happening in day light & on streets, damaging its social life. And on other hand going by the ER outcome the city seems going to worst from bad as it says there are 3.6 millions of vehicles for population of 3.4 millions (I am sure out of PMC passing vehicles have not been considered here) mean public transport has gone to dogs! Everyone is busy in printing progress of Metro but it’s just few routes, the city needs cohesive net work of bus service which is the only solution to protect environment from exhausts of these millions of vehicles is something a five year kid will tell but our rulers are blind & deaf by choice on public transport front! Instead what we get to see is poorest net work of public transport with nearly hundreds of busses are out of service & offering no solace to the commuters even when they are ready to pay for the service! The very same rulers who condemns ER for cut paste report hardly bothers for making PMT operational at its best but are busy to make the roads in their wards concrete! And the civic body’s administration is busy in building more roads, flyovers & making DC rules to accommodate more vehicles by increasing parking norms! 

If this is not enough then under the name of development we cut the trees as well we pollute our rivers which are homes to millions of species like birds, butterflies, squirrels & such, which were pride of the city for years. Then we claim we have made hundred gardens in the city but it’s like applying bernol on some patch of the body when entire body has sustained burnt injuries due to fire named! The Environment Report mentions that biodiversity of the city is fast decreasing with only twenty to thirty species of the birds have been left as citizens of this city, a figure which was nearly two hundred plus, just a decade back! But then who cares, as birds or butterflies doesn’t pay for premiums or paid FSI or can’t buy TDR for their homes neither they can pay property taxes to the city for their homes here so better such citizens get off from the city, is what our rulers must be thinking & unfortunate that the citizens also thinks on same lines or else they would have raise their voice on for the birds or butterflies migrating away from the city the way they shouts demanding affordable homes for humans, which indeed are equally important!

Well, I am in no way against development or Metro or flyovers or new roads or TDR or FSI but can’t we balance environment along with all this? As this is what ER is supposed to do as per my small brain is what I feel which eventually isn’t happening. All over the world people are trying to focus environment as their core of urban planning but we are going exactly opposite of this concept. As we have introduced Green Building norms & there are rating systems like Griha or ECBC to promote environment conservation in our development (read constructions of all sorts) but then ER doesn’t have mention of how many new buildings has got green ratings in last year as that will show our ugly & true face of eco friendliness! The problem with these green rating systems is nobody loves them, with due respect I am making the statement as this is something which no one will admit in public but ask any developer who is doing green rated buildings & the grind he has to go through to get the rating as well to avail the so called reimbursement on premiums as well development charges paid which are peanuts in comparison to the expenses made in making the green building! And here the society is equally to be at blame as the home buyers are ready to shell out some extra buck for swimming pool as well club house but not for the solar or drainage treatment plants given by the builder! And then these very residents of such luxurious projects which are celebrity citizens of the city will cry foul over the degration of the environment of the city; such hypocrites we are, really pathetic!
Anyways, despite all above facts one silver lining to the fast graying environment scene is at least Environment Report episodes are running as somewhere someone will (read hopefully) take cognizance of it & try to change the course. It is will take a Herculean effort because with all glossy pictures & efforts yet ER doesn’t fail to show us what lies ahead of us. The city environment is on down fall & the road ahead is getting steeper but making the 360 degree turnaround difficult by every passing day. 

The real estate industry must do something on environment front as it will be the first which will get hit worst if the city doesn’t remain livable. Create pressure groups, work along with NGO’s, make your voice reach on every possible forum but save environment of the city as their lies the real “Achhe Din” for real estate & for that all one is required to have is will to save environment! Or today just birds are leaving the city but tomorrow even human beings will be required to leave this city & then on that day there still will be Environment Report but the Environment would have been gone forever!
Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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