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'I am against development at the cost of our environment'
As a nation, are we ecologically sensitive?
While there is rising awareness about the environment and wildlife, we treat these issues with complacency. They have become our lowest priorities, reflected by the state of our rivers, our disappearing tigers and other wild species. Only 1,000 tigers are left in India. That says a lot about our respect towards the wild.
Recently, seven elephants were mowed down by a train in West Bengal while three elephants were poisoned in Kaziranga National Park. Why are we erring so badly in protecting wildlife?
It is very saddening to see how terribly we treat our animals. Everyone comments on this or makes rejoinders but, beyond that, there is no action. When it suits us, we show great respect for animals but when it doesn’t, we simply kill or maim them or encroach upon their habitat. Over 27 elephants have been killed in train accidents during this year. The planet is in serious peril
because we have tipped the balance. We are destroying our ecosystems, rampantly killing wildlife and living in the false belief that there will be no consequences.
Are India’s laws strict enough to deal with cruelty towards animals?
There are rules and regulations. But there is a huge gap when it comes to enforcement. Corruption, nepotism and gunda raj have dug deep graves in our law and order system. Also, more than laws, the onus lies on every individual to respect their ecosystem. Look at the Yamuna today, the river is so polluted that new diseases are on the rise. With peoples’ rights also come their responsibilities.
Is there an ongoing war between development and conservation?
Yes, there is a war and it will take an ugly turn. I am against development at the cost of our environment. What’s the point of a 500-bedroom structure if there is no food and water? We use fancy terminologies like ‘sustainable development’ but we don’t practice what we preach. Overwhelming greed and consumerism are costing us dearly but we are brushing facts under the carpet. Who cares if our water bodies are polluted, our animals on the verge of extinction, our farm production halved? The economic thrust is on rising structures, land encroachment and reckless depletion of natural reserves. It is very alarming.
What can be done to improve animal welfare in India?
As a society, we have this inherent reverence towards animals. But that has been forgotten in the past two decades. Along with evaluating environmental concerns, we need to re-tell the story of our heritage and culture. Awareness and stricter enforcement of laws are immediate remedies. I am very happy with Jairam Ramesh for being so vocal about the environment. He has single-handedly changed the apathy towards our ecosystems.
How does India rank globally in terms of environmental awareness?
According to a Time Magazine survey, 66 per cent of Indians were found to be aware of environmental issues as compared to 40 per cent of Europeans. That says a lot. While we know about burning issues, we don’t do anything about them. We
are armchair thinkers. We need to reassess our priorities and establish that crucial link between nature and life.
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