Naveen on a green mission!

By DN Singh | Last Updated: Monday, August 24, 2009 - 23:40
DN Singh
Orissa Diary

These days Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik can be seen daily in newspapers,
almost on every alternative day, planting a tree in some part of this denuded city. And the
group of men and women in elite getups, with glee on their faces, preening for the video cameras and perhaps, trying to boost the morale of the CM for his delayed noble efforts, little realizing that such acts are being viewed by every conscious citizen as a mere palliative.

The disease has gone so deep into the health of the state that such photo ops look like publicity stunts than actuated by real veneration for nature. It is a reality that forests are an 'antidote' to environmental degradation. But this is a reality that people in power
bother little about.

Lets begin from the capital city of Orissa, Bhubaneswar, the city so close to Naveen Patnaik’s heart, who incidentally is also the Forest minister of Orissa. The city is fast sinking into problems despite being a much publicised model city.

The environmental aspects of this once cool city have been put on the backburner. No doubt crores of rupees are being spent on its beautification but the core issues remain grossly unattended. A birds-eye-view would show a vast concrete monstrosity, spreading over 250 sq. kms, with a motley patch of green. Perhaps the only lifeline left for the equally unmindful citizenry of Bhubaneswar.

The upper class suffers from complacent insularity and the middle-class tries hard to remain ambivalent. However, the majority bears the brunt of summer solstices. The winter is already becoming an alien concept. In a way, the entire lot of over 20 lakh population crowding this capital is inured to all the ills.

With a majority of the trees in the city fast disappearing it has had a direct impact on the lives of a good number of wildlife species like squirrels, bats, mongoose, lizards and reptiles are on the run. Trees being roosting and nesting ground for the birds, they have migrated or just vanished from the city.

"Urban wildlife has an invaluable role in maintaining the ecological health of cities. Even sparrows and mynahs are useful insectivores and keep the cities clean of insects and pests," said Biswajit Mohanty, an environmental activist.

It would not be an overstatement to say that, Bhubaneswar city and the surrounding areas have emerged as few of the hottest spots in Orissa where mercury had often crossed 45 to 46 degree during peak summer coupled with a humidity factor of 85 to 90 % making lives more miserable. The summer afternoon breezes, which play the role of a catalyst to dilute the wrath of heat, are becoming less.

Naveen Patnaik's government has an unconquerable passion for concrete and it shows. The multi-storied skyscrapers and innumerable mobile towers are indeed fast replacing the trees. Let’s imagine the amount of radiation from the towers affects the children and the old persons. "The BMC (Bhubaneswar Municipality Corporation) has been only issuing the notices to remove these towers but has failed to penalize the mobile
service provider companies or the house owners " rued Mohanty.

"With more than 80 percent of the city area coming within rapid urbanization and the trees disappearing at a phenomenal speed, time has come for the people to prepare themselves to weather a heat condition of 48 to 50 degree Celsius in coming two or three years " warned Biswajit Mohanty.

There is a determined group of advisers to the Chief Minister who make persistent efforts to derail any serious discussion on environment in the state and the latter seems to be allowing himself to be carried along by such curiosities like planting tree saplings and so on. They make persistent bids to idealize such pestilence, killing city, through the guise of beautification etc.

Gabriel Garcia Maquez pointed in one of his books that "each man is master of his death and all that we can do when the time comes is to help him die without fear of pain."

But, it would be an understatement here when we know that the conditions, if not attended, would worsen into an unbearable reality where you won’t die without fear of pain but, the pain itself is going to kill.

First Published: Monday, August 24, 2009 - 23:40

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