Today is World Environment Day, and Mumbai is marking the occasion in several ways. There are a clutch of programmes about environmental awareness. It is heartening to see that many of these events have children involved, so awareness about environment is beginning at an early age. The events centre around how to cut pollution, preserve patches of green which are so scarce in Mumbai, and bring environmental issues on the radar of the city’s populace.
In a city where the population literally doubles every few years and there is such a heavy influx of immigrants, it is always a huge challenge to achieve that delicate balance between development and environment.
Builders and city planners are, more often than not, hurtling on a collision course. While the city needs to update and expand its infrastructure to absorb teeming millions, the activists claim this is often at the cost of green space and natural habitats. Even ordinary citizens have seen open spaces simply swallowed up by construction activity or disturbances in natural habitat. One prime example is the number of attacks by wild cats in the suburbs of the city. It is a classic example of humans encroaching on the land of the animals, which inevitably results in an animal-human conflict.
Unfortunately, it is only eternal vigilance and unrelenting activism, sometimes at huge cost, that can safeguard the few open spaces that are left in Mumbai. Transport projects and infrastructure often cut into these natural preserves and then begins the delicate and very difficult juggling act.
The solution is to get everybody on the same side, that of preserving the environment. The environment and development cannot, and should not, be mutually exclusive. If nature can be saved while trying to build something, then all efforts must be made to do so. When promises are made to the public about trees going to be replanted, they should be replanted and authorities should not just mouth pious platitudes. Environmental concerns are not simply fashionable causes to spout at a cocktail party. Saving the environment should be an all-out effort by all in society.