Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Common Man and Environment

Recently, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded provided me a good dose of Environmental concerns around the globe today. It was this dose that led me to think if a common man is really concerned about environment at all or should these issues be left to the government to be solved on a macro level.
The first question is - Is it really happening? Well, the statistics, videos, photos, documentaries (happened to see one on Discovery recently) - all point to the fact that some drastic changes are really happening. And it indeed needs attention – much more attention than it is getting at present.
But are we concerned about it at an individual level? I don’t think so. We definitely complain that this time around the heat wave is terrifying and started much before it used to happen 5 years ago. There are status messages of how the temperatures in Delhi are breaking 10 year old and 50 year old records. But again we are not really bothered. If the outside temperatures are up, our AC Panel will show a lower temperature. And we can sit pretty comfy. If there is lack of water, electricity, it can be blamed on the government. Traffic problems can be attributed to the rapid development that we are witnessing. The statistics are merely numbers or a news report. Nothing can be directly attributed to the environment. And it may be too harsh to blame us for not being concerned. We are rapidly developing and urbanizing. Why can’t we enjoy a good life?
And even if we want to act environment friendly – what incentives, motivation do we have? Before that, the million dollar question is what do we need to do to be environmental friendly? Refuse take the plastic bag from the shop, don’t use the AC, refrigerators because of some Chloro-Floro Carbons which I cannot even see?

Ultimately it is up to the governmental organizations to implement plans and policies which on a macro level and in the long run will be helpful in saving the environment. But then again, it has to tread the fine line between development and environment. The priority according to the manifestos of 2 leading political parties is quite clear. Both talk of development in BOLD letters while the environment is a 10 – 15 line mention somewhere on the 20th page.
It was a funny feeling when I went through the 11 points the party had mentioned to protect environment. If you had put a question “What steps can be taken to protect environment in India” to a MBA Class, you can expect a similar kind of ‘Gas’ Answers.

Banning of plastic bags in shops has been implemented in cities like Chandigarh. Guess, that is where a start that can be done on a pan-India basis. It also ensures active participation from the citizens to some extent. Environment Impact Assessment or EIA is another initiative which is compulsory by law before start of a new project in an area. It involves active participation from citizens and people from an area where the project is coming up. They can give their feedback on environmental issues that the project may bring about. Often EIA’s of many projects have been in news for all the wrong reasons.
If right reasons and correct incentive is provided, a common man can also play his or her part in the protection of environment which so desperately needs contribution from all quarters.

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