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MayDay…Earth Calling…!

03 May

1st May – International Labour day is also the raising day for the State of Maharashtra, India. On this day it became officially one of the States in the Union of independent India, post British Raj.  Maharashtra attained statehood on 1st of May, 1960 when the then state Bombay state was divided into two states, Maharashtra and Gujarat on the basis of different languages, Marathi and Gujarati,under the Saurashtra re-organization act.

On this 1 May evening, as an invitee to the Governor House in Mumbai, I had the good fortune to hear his excellency the Governor of Maharashtra speak, before felicitating the Padma Bhusan and the Padma Shree from the State. The  third and the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India. Among the regal settings and protocol, what struck me most was what our Governor spoke, especially about food and water. Touching the subject of Climate Change on such an important day, he underscored the thinking of the State as well as the Government of India, which had mooted the NAPCC a few year ago.

Yet, are we doing enough ? And in time ? The answers to my thoughts as I sat in the regal “Durbar” Hall came to me in today’s DNA news paper. Where a few headings stood out –

NABARD‘s lies on restructuring process; The National Bank on Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) set up to finance agriculture and rural development, has been giving evasive replies to specific questions raised by the Union Finance ministry and the Parliament…. showing that in the primer organisation set up by an act of parliament in 1981, all is not well. Then in the following pages were more grim news –

5 more Vidarbha farmers commit suicide; according to a farmer advocacy group, the total number of suicides by farmers has reached 332 in the four months of 2012.And then a news from the legislative assembly –

Congress MLAs: Government blind to eastern Maharashtra drought; CM urged not to ignore the situation in Vidarbha and Marathwada. And then in the business page a story ran –

India’s Consumer story is ticking well; The result of Hindustan Unilever (HUL), Dabur and Godrej hold out hope because the aam aadmi (Hindi for – common person) is doing his bit to keep the engine of the economy ticking.

What I found ironical is how can such diverse report be published in the same day, talking of the common person in such diverse perspective, one of hope and the other of gloom? What is then to be believed? Are the business predictions which speak of India’s resilient and resurgent economy correct or the fate of poor farmers and the sceptre of drought and famine in the State of Maharashtra incorrect?

In my opinion here lies the danger, the danger of many of us not being able to listen to the distress calls of “Mayday” by both the common person and mother Earth. Because, lulled as many would be from the report of the stellar performance and statements from the captains of industry; the result they hold is more holistic than any region specific. Therefore the bountiful opportunity say the consumers and people of the state of Gujrat project is not necessarily the picture which the poorer and deeply distressed states both in terms of governance and vagaries of climate may project. But this will never get reflected in any Corporate pie-chart or graph; simply because such graphs have not been created, which can project such complex problems in one go. Because had it been so, then the very companies such as Unilever , Godrej and the rest who are truly trying to be Climate responsive would have been measured in their response.

But due to this inaccuracy the message that reaches out to the vast majorities of common persons, who are not affected by famine and drought, is that everything is fine and we can continue to consume and pollute and live irresponsibly. And this most true for those who are live in the mega cities. And it is the mega cities; in which all the political and corporate masters reside and usually keep it insular from all problems should be most afraid. Because when ( “IF” – is a very remote chance) the last chain in the socio-environment snaps, the cascading effect of food and water crises would effect the mega cities most.

We all know that drought is a condition which occurs in absence of water which can not always be attributed to absence of monsoon. I may not be an expert on water but reading about it since I was a school student, I can deduce a very simple fact that, water management is the solution. Monsoon is a natural cycle and it has never failed to arrive in the Indian sub-continent even once in the last 10 years at least. So, if we still face drought in Maharashtra then it is the fault of our governance and utter failure of implementing proper water management solutions.

Mumbai, India

Mumbai, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To understand this, one only needs to pause and look around, such as the city of Mumbai. It does not have a single lake within the town barring the Powai lake, which does not hold sufficient water to feed the total populace, so water comes from outside the city.  All its food comes from miles away. It does not even have  housing colonies, where homes have kitchen -gardens. Or a well from which non-polluted drinking water can be drawn. These were long paved over, and trees cut down. In the tree census report of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), it was reported that there is 1 tree for every 9 men in this city of Gujrat. According to the global ratio of total trees per person, there should be 61 trees per person. If this is true, then Mumbai would perhaps have a fraction of a tree per person. And it is an established fact that trees hold ground water and also help reduce heat island effect. Trees are also source of food.

Tough Work, Maharashtra

Tough Work, Maharashtra (Photo credit: Michael Foley Photography)

Therefore in an eventuality of a consecutive wide-spread drought in Maharashtra, the city of Mumbai would be toast. And I do not mean only the heat.With scarcity of water and food, it is but obvious that to supply the very same to the city, the administration would have to deny some to the rural populace. What that can lead to is best left aside, while we earnestly look for solutions. The solutions we require are simple. Climate responsive laws need to be implemented, not just printed and tabled in the assemblies.

But if the answer to it is we are still facing drought in-spite of  implementation of all the recommendations,then Climate change is already staring at us and bringing with it the devastation foretold.

 

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