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Observing the World Environment Day with a difference - Remembering Mahatma Gandhi

Sanjay Kumar Panda

June 11, 2021, 08:42:10   

It was a pleasant surprise to get a request on WhatsApp from my old friend, Manna De- the man behind the Kathia Baba Welfare society, Katlamara, Tripura to participate in a webinar, they would be observing on the World Environment Day (5th June 2021). I readily agreed as with a time difference of 9 and a half hours, the webinar time 5.30 pm local Indian time suited me (New York time 8am). I hold Manna with lots of affection for his being a simple person with commitment to uplifting the disadvantaged, dedication to improving quality of school education and above all for his ever-smiling face. Initiating the discussion in the webinar, Shri Alind Rastogi, a distinguished officer of the Indian Forest Service, talked passionately about the relevance of World Environment Day and in general and importance of conservation of land, water, tree, forest etc. in particular. Keeping in mind the request of Jayant, another friend from Tripura, I thought of putting my observations together for the readers of Tripurainfo.

The green planet, Mother earth is probably the only place in the universe, which hold living plants and animals due to favorable temperature, air, soil, water, etc. which are critical for life. Planet earth holds millions of living plants and animals, out of which human being is the most developed. On the strength of intelligence coupled with ever expanding science and technology, human being has conquered the nature. However, exploitation of nature by human being in the name of development mindlessly has led to devastating consequences. Several living plants and animals, which came to existence because of centuries long evolutionary process, have either become extinct or are on the path to extinction. Observation of 5th June as the World Environment Day is required to be appreciated in this broader context for generating awareness about the importance of nature and environment and mobilizing support for its conservation.

Covid-19, the global pandemic, has cast a spell on the planet earth with its devastating impact on human life and livelihood. In its first phase March to September 2020, the virus  derailed human life all over the world including the developed and resourceful countries like USA, UK with sizable number of persons getting infected, many of whom died. Covid got the notoriety of claiming the largest number of human lives in the past century after the Spanish flue and even more lives than the World wars. Discovery of vaccine and mobilization of resources brought some relief. However, the second wave hit in April-June 2021 leading to a more devastating impact in terms of infection and death. The media reports and television clips showing the conditions of the infected and their families running around desperately for oxygen was heartbreaking. Remembering this very scene is enough to understand the importance of environment in human life. Hence it has become necessary to draw lessons from the past and work out details for tackling the pandemic.

It hardly needs any elaboration that natural resources available on the planet are limited. However, the human population, with each claiming his/ her share, is increasing steadily. The pressure on limited on natural resources is getting further aggravated to the change in mindset and consumption pattern. In this background, tackling the issue and making the planet a more livable place would  require recalling the two golden  principles of Mahatma Gandhi.

Firstly, the "Mother Earth has enough for every body's need but not for greed".

Traditional Indian customs emphasize on avoiding wastage keeping others need in mind and donating to others. However, in the name of modernity, this tradition is getting replaced by a new culture of exhibitionism and wastage of food as a status symbol. While visiting Singapore on my first visit outside India (in 1992), I remember having seen a notice displayed on the dining table indicating that that any wastage of food would make the concerned person liable to pay a fine of 10 Singapore dollars. In many countries of the Southeast Asia, a notice is displayed on the dining table serving Buffett lunch/dinner requesting the guest to take due care so as to ensure that no food is wasted, as even though the guest might have paid, it is not enough to meet the real cost of food served and as several other hungry people are waiting for food.

This takes us to the other golden advice of Gandhiji "First practice and then preach."

While this applies to all, those in senior and leadership position are require to show higher sensitivity. In the context of conservation of environment, I would like to recall the sincere effort made for raising plantations on the approach road to ILS hospital. Adoption of appropriate technology for pit preparation, planting 5 to 6 feet tall saplings and planting early before monsoon had led to an excellent rate of survival. I am sure the Kadamb and Golmohar saplings planted have grown up to trees in the meantime; offering shade, scented/ beautiful flowers to the passersby. I feel I would be failing if I do not thank Sanjay (Majumdar), Debashish, Anjan, Kishore (Ambuly) for their untiring hard work and wholehearted support for raising this plantation.

Another episode, I recall is my request to Asit and other officers of the Public Works Department for avoiding covering roadside footpaths with concrete, as it prevents percolation of rainwater into the ground; thereby lowering the water table on the one hand and increasing the surface runoff leading to flood downstream on the other. (On this occasion, I fondly remember Shri N K Dutta, the tall, towering personality, Bhismapitamaha of Tripura, PWD)

I further recall Tripura being quoted as a leader and an example of good governance in the Northeastern Region in the last decade in several forums like the Govt of India, erstwhile Planning Commission, and NorthEastern Council. This was largely attributed to the teamwork with positive mindset and use of appropriate technology.

As a matter of fact, while congratulating the new Chief Secretary, Kumar Alok on the eve of his taking over very recently, I had reiterated this and requested him to work for the disadvantaged segments and for making the development inclusive and sustainable.

Reacting to Manna expressing gratitude for my joining the webinar, I mentioned that having spent my prime youth and more than half of my active service career in Tripura, the participation has come to me as an opportunity for giving back to the people of Tripura in lieu of what I was privileged to get. Hence it is rather embarrassing for me to expect anyone expressing gratitude for any of my work relating to development of Tripura.

Organization of the webinar by a person like Manna running a Non-Government Organization with limited resource and without any support from Government, once again reiterated my faith and belief on the enormous strength of people of Tripura. I am confident that with active participation and cooperation of all segments of people, Tripura will go ahead on the ladder of development ushering in peace and prosperity for all.

   (Tripurainfo)

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