WORLD ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION
(THE YEAR OF THE TREE)
5TH, of June,2011 was celebrated as the 39th World Environment Day. This year, India played the role of ‘Global Host’ for the celebrations. This year was declared as the International Year of Forests, and the theme this year was "Forests: Nature at your Service.”
There were different types of pertinent celebrations on the World Environment Day. But, at the end of the day, the Challenges remain, as ever. The questions remain as ever.
1. Who will plant trees in the Forests and ensure that our Forests grow larger and denser?
2. Who will ensure that people do not cut away forest trees for personal gain?
3. How will the economy survive without cutting forest trees?
4. Are we not going to use Forest produce, especially timber, for building our houses, furniture, boats, and also our news papers, books etc?
5. How will we ensure that there is always a net addition to the forest cover, on each day?
6. There are no accurate statistics on our Industrial Production itself. How are we going to produce reliable statistics on our Forest cover?
Such questions dog our minds. There are also some contradictions and confusions in our minds. Should we use timber or plastic for our furniture, bags etc? Tree or Plastic? Ironically, we want to discontinue Plastic and use tree based products more!
The confusion has arisen because, today – we are cutting down trees much faster than we plant them and grow them.
We cannot shun the use of trees for many of our purposes. It is not necessary and not possible too. Today’s need is, we must plant and grow significantly more trees, much faster than we are cutting them down.
And, we are doing exactly the reverse, especially in India. We are cutting down trees blindly and almost, our planting of trees and taking care of their growth is very negligible.
With each passing day – the environment is suffering huge adverse consequences of such human Inaction, which in turn results in huge adverse consequences for the whole humanity.
We are being foolish. Collectively.
This collective foolishness must go. In its place, a collective wisdom that tree is our biggest savior and we in turn must take care of it, must clearly arise and take roots in our deepest sub-conscious minds.
We breathe in oxygen from the air and leave out carbon dioxide into it. The tree absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and breathes out oxygen into the air for us. We have two lungs within us to breathe oxygen in and exhale carbon dioxide out.
The Tree has “our” other 2 lungs with it, to absorb the carbon dioxide we breathe out and release oxygen from it into the air, for us to breathe.
But, we are foolish enough to cutting down our very own other 2 lungs, on the tree, which are breathing for us.
The tree is our counterpart. Our complimentary existence. If it doesn’t live, we also don’t live. This is the fact that must register very deeply in us.
But, if we don’t live, the tree lives better!
The Tree gives us food, clothing, medicines, fresh air, oxygen, and protection from the Sun. And, many other things.
We are dependent on the Tree. Not the Tree on us.
Let us stop being collectively foolish, by understanding that we are stopping our own oxygen supply, our own food supply, our own medicines supply, our own clothes supply and so on.
Let us give back to the trees what we owe to them. We must allow the trees to grow in abundance.
Let us segregate trees into 2 types. (i) Trees in Forests, and (ii) Trees in our own midst. We need both.
How do we ensure that the Forests grow well? There is only one way. Human beings should stop meddling with them. The Forest knows how to Grow – if we keep off from them. We must not choke their water supply; we must not meddle with their flora and fauna too much. It is as simple as that.
How do we take care of trees in our own midst? This, in my view, is of greater importance, as this requires our continuous action. This is also a measurable action, the result of which we can see with our own eyes – even as the trees are growing through our initiative.
Some Countries exhibit great awareness of the importance of trees in environment protection, and have initiated significant actions for the purpose.
For instance, Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya has asked Kenyans to plant at least 200 trees (each) – as the vegetation cover has come down from 12% to 1.7 percent after Kenyan Independence.
Costa Rica has been successful in increasing its Forest cover from 22 percent in 1995 to 51 percent by 2010.
Under ENEP, a “Billion Tree campaign” has been launched under the patronage of Nobel peace prize winner Prof. Wangari Matthai and Prince Albert II of Monaco. The UN says that 166 countries have given tree planting pledges. Hopefully, India is also one amongst them.
What can India do for world environment Protection?
(1) First and foremost – every Indian citizen must become fully aware of the challenges to his own survival and health, because of the depletion of the tree cover in India.
This year, there should be special lessons on world environment protection – especially through protection of the trees and forests - in each class of each school and college in India, without exception. We can inculcate this spirit more easily in the minds of students, than in the minds of the middle aged and old aged persons. Our children and youth must absorb this message urgently and the result of this will be longer lasting. And, this is a simple and easy measure.
The Union and state Education Ministries must move in this direction quickly – as the academic session is just starting and printing of a few special lessons on environmental protection isn’t very difficult.
(2) But, mere Education will not by itself lead to Growth of trees and environmental protection in the short run.
We need some easy and effective Goal-oriented actions. One simple and easy goal is - every house in India must have at least one, or more Big trees. This is where human action is urgently required. The Government – at each level, especially at panchayat and Municipality level - must reach out to each house, and if it does not already have a few trees, identify a place in the house, and make the resident plant an appropriate Tree. Not a flower Pot please. It must be a good, big, useful tree. This is the type of action that Panchayats need to undertake. This initiative will work effectively, if it comes from the Union Ministry of Environment and states Ministries of Environment.
There may be a few houses – which are totally built up already, with no vacant space at all. They must grow a tree on the road, in the space allocated by the Panchayat. If, even this is not possible, they must grow at least a few small plants in pots in their house – and contribute for growing bigger trees in the town elsewhere. No one shall be exempt from this exercise.
(3) We have huge funds being spent on schemes like NREGS. This Financial Year, the projects on which the amounts must be spent must be –
(i) planting trees on either side of roads – and watering them till they grow
(ii) Planting trees on either side of tank bunds and other water sources – even as protection for the tank bunds and the water sources – and again, taking care of their growth through watering.
(iii) Planting trees near hills – and taking care of their Growth. We must have clear, statistics of the progress on this “Project Tree“, which should be monitored by state and central Ministries of Environment.
(4) Wherever Possible, Involve students on one Sunday in 3 months – which means – 4 Sundays in a year – in planting trees – and then allow the NREGS workers to take care of those plants. Their environmental lessons must not go waste. This can be improved in many ways at many places.
(5) This year must also be dedicated to Trees in another way. For this one year of 2011, no one must be allowed to fell (cut down) any Big Tree anywhere, for any purpose, without mandatory permission from the Panchayat. Subsequently, this awareness will stay in the public mind for ever.
(6) No Big building plan must be approved henceforth, without adequate space for Trees. These trees must be actually grown around the Building, even when construction is in progress.
(7) We must have a clear Goal Post, say, 50 crore additional trees, to be planted and grown (by planting, watering and manuring) in 2011, the year of the Tree.
These are all practical ideas, which can be implemented directly by the Government – as part of its projects, with normal budgetary allocations. Voluntary organizations and NGOs also must contribute well in implementing these ideas.
Union Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Environment and state Ministries must ensure sufficient Budget allocations for the purpose – and actively initiate and monitor the success of the Tree Planting Programs.
May 2011 be the glorious “YEAR OF THE TREE” in India.
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