Lockdown and the Environment
The World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on June 5th every year to create awareness and build in us the sense of responsibility for the protection of the environment. Pope Francis in Laudato Si (on care for our common home) said, “The human family has received from the creator a common gift: Nature.” So not just every time we celebrate WED but otherwise we need to introspect and see if we are doing enough to protect our environment. The more awareness we create seem to fall on deaf ears. Thinking of profit some have turned a blind eye to the harm we do to our mother nature. We celebrated the positive impact of lockdown on our environment, but has it taught us any lessons for the future?
The lockdown provided us with clean air which was very evident to our brethren in Northern India who were stunned to see the Himalayan mountain range. The shutting down of the offices and factories, less vehicular traffic, less burning of fossil fuels, and the drop in the emission of carbon has been the biggest boon for the environment.
Sparkling clean water was a result of the lockdown. The absence of industrial waste and the lack of human activity at the rivers and other water bodies have proved it beneficial. The Ganga river water, for instance, according to the Pollution Control Board (PCB) could be fit for drinking, after it has undergone filtration.
We have also noticed liberated wildlife during this lockdown. The wildlife which was caged for a very long time experienced freedom as it were after the human race was confined to their homes.
The lockdown has given the freedom to many to carry on their corrupt activities with no eyeballs to object. The hills are being ravaged, deforestation on the rise, and projects are being passed, whether it is in Saligao, Ponda, Ucassaim, or Mollem. The biggest project that is being carried out is at Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park. The following are the projects: NH-4A highway project, 400 KV transmission line, and railway project. These projects have estimated to lead to chopping down of 12097, 4146, and 20758 trees respectively. The indigenous trees including ‘Matti’ the state tree is also going to be felled. If these projects happen they are going to invite an abundance of trouble to us. 238 species of birds are going to lose their safe shelter. Our waterways will be affected as there will be soil erosion and water pollution, air pollution is going to rise because of the coal that will be transported through the route, and disturbance to 722 species of mammals like tiger and others.
These projects and ventures of a similar kind will disintegrate us in the near future. What happens then to all the promises we made to safeguard our environment? On June 18th we will celebrate the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si wherein we pledged to fight against consumerism and irresponsible development carried on by individuals and authorities. Late Pope John Paul II said, “The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.”
Like the group of 149 scientists and students who joined hands to write to the National Board of Wildlife and The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change regarding the environmental concerns due to the clearance at the wildlife sanctuary and national park we ought to rise to the occasion and fight injustice done to our environment. Let us join hands with ‘Save Green Goa’ and ‘Let India Breathe’ project.
In the encyclical, Laudato Si Pope Francis invited us to think and listen to the cry of the earth. Which he says will enable us to listen to the cry of the poor in society. He wants us to undergo a conversion, meaning putting on clean clothing as Pablo Neruda in his poem, ‘Keeping Quiet’ would tell us. ‘Keeping Quite’ insists on being silent, not inactive. Making us aware that there have been many instances where we have caused hatred, harm and conflicts. And by pausing we will be able to spot those moments and think for ourselves and be fruitful for the future. Putting on clean clothes thus would mean that we become people who embrace love and kindness towards humanity and nature at large.
Raising our voices against the harm caused to the environment or celebrating environment day would not help much, unless and until we act out in person by planting trees and encouraging people around us to do the same. The loss of jobs has led many to till their fields and sow seeds. The long uncultivated land could now be put to use back again. The younger generation needs to be made aware of the ecological beauty around us. They ought to be taught to love and respect nature. The authorities more than ever, need to live up to their promises which they make on every celebration of the WED. What we need are examples and not fake quotes on environment protection. All of us need to stand our ground and promise to be stewards of creation, not its bosses. “As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family,” said Pope Francis.
FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE GOAN EVERYDAY NEWSPAPER