Today, June 5, 2014, is World Environment Day. Mumbai is marking the day in different ways. There are a slew of programmes about environmental awareness, some of which involve campaigning against the use of plastic, spreading the word on conservation, and raising general awareness about different environmental issues that have put the planet in peril.
In a city where population literally doubles every few years, it is always a huge challenge to achieve that delicate balance between development and environment. Builders and city planners are, at times, 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 alarming rise in the number of wild cat attacks in the suburbs of the city. Humans encroaching on the land earlier occupied by animals inevitably results in animal-human conflict. Then, one also has the classic example of South Mumbai’s green emerald, the Mahalaxmi racecourse.
One of the last few open spaces left in Mumbai, activists and supporters have had to fight bitterly to prevent the racecourse from being sold to people who want to develop it either as a car park, a five star resort or build a large commercial tower. The proposals are many, and those opposed to this development have fended them off with vigour till now.
The question is: how long can one keep fighting? Will there come a time when the unimaginable and inevitable happens? What is most desirable today is striking a fine balance between environment and development.
If nature can be saved while trying to build something, then all efforts must be made to save it or find an alternate route. Nature and man have to co-exist. Make ‘go green’ not just a fashionable mantra but a way of life.