Have you ever heard of the forest department launching crackdown on timber smugglers on the Environment Day? Did the pollution control board revealed facts about industries causing harm to environment on the Day? Has the government come out with any stricter law to combat environment degradation, to mark the global occasion? No, what we see is all seminars, symbolic plantations, talks, processions etc. Most of these end up in reports, media coverage, photo shoots, power point presentations etc. And, the necessary evil of these programmes is rampant use of plastic bottles, seen as a major danger to the environment, not to speak about the money splashed on costly lunch, refreshment etc.
There is no doubt that the speakers invited to Environment Day programmes are learned people. What they say is good, if converted into action. It’s very said that hardly anything is seen on the ground. People’s behavior is not changed despite the crores of taxpayers’ money being spent for bringing ‘awareness’. No one gives a second thought before throwing a plastic bottle out of a moving vehicle. It’s not that these people have not heard about pro-environment slogans in their lifetime.
Economic standard and population density are the two prime factors that influence human behaviour towards environment. Rich and scantily populated countries are seen cleaner and greener than others. The same theory applies to the developing nations in Asia and Africa where people bother least about environment and cleanliness. It might be because of the fact that they are poor and more in number; hence the pressure on the limited natural resources. Keeping the surrounding environment clean is also a costly affair for people in these nations.
The concern about environment in the third world countries has drawn global attention, leading to flow of massive amount of funds for pro-environment programmes in these nations. The respective governments also cough up huge funds for such schemes. But, it’s high time the authorities reviewed whether the crores of rupees spent on such programmes and functions yielded any results on the ground. The so-called environment scholars should visit slums, filthy market places and bus-taxi stands on the Environment Day and try to convince people to change their habits. Otherwise, they would remain mute spectators to anyone throwing garbage on the road once they come out of the air-conditioned auditorium, finishing the Environment Day lecture.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on June 7)