This venting out of frustration was long due, for few years in fact! And if it doesn’t happen now then it may never be needed! Hundreds must have been screaming the same thing what I am writing here and I wish we pay heed to at least one!
The North Indian state of Uttarakhand has been wrecked up and is struck with a never heard before catastrophe of mammoth proportions and cost thousands of lives and property. The beautiful, picture perfect villages of Himalayan valley are now in shambles. The media has been relentlessly showing video clips of sliding mountains, ravaging rivers and washed away villages, the filthy politicians are making hay even while there is a cloudburst & thousands stuck in middle of nowhere and amidst all this chaos, the army has been doing a commendable, selfless job, as always. Meanwhile, in the south, a group of 15 tuskers have barged into a village at a distance of 35 kms from the silicon heart of India, Bangalore, killing 4 people. With all due respect to the precious lives lost in these calamities, I have to say that it’s all just a little consequence of all the brutalism we have been doing over the years!
I was born, brought up in a little village on the foothills of Western Ghats of Karnataka. May be because of having lived most of my life amidst the forest, it hurts to see the massive torture to the nature, I fail to understand this total bloody concept of the so called development. Of course, a country needs to progress, have a higher GDP and get its economy shining but definitely not at the cost of forgetting the well being of its people, not at the cost of losing its natural resources and not at the damn cost of killing its nature! It’s not that we have not had such heavy rains ever in the history, in fact there are records of higher rainfalls in the area of former Uttar Pradesh. Also, it’s not that we never had elephants before and someone air dropped them suddenly into our premises! I am sure we had even more in number some years back. Still, we rarely have any records of such havoc. In the recent past, landslides across the country has been a common phenomenon and so are tuskers’ attacks and take my word, these are just two incidents off a big lot that are affects of our ruthless behaviour towards nature.
I just have to take a little area into consideration to give you a rough picture of what the heck have we been doing. There is this little area called Shirady ghat between the towns of Sakleshpur and Uppinangady in Karnataka. Sakleshpur is right amdist the Western Ghats and Uppinangady is almost on the foothills and the strip of nature between these two towns has taken a lot of man handling over the last decade. The first one came in the disguise of development! They came with huge machines, even bigger promises to the localities and started murdering the very source which gave us life for all these years. They went on cutting down trees and barging into the forest. They destroyed the very source of habitat of hundreds and thousands of animals. This stretch of Western Ghats is considered to be one of the eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity in the world. But they did not even consider it. They brutally ran their machines over trees with the venom of barbarians in their eyes.
There is one fact that was kept away from everyone or like they say, was blissfully ignored. The law says, any power plant above 20MW production needs an approval from the central government to be commissioned in any part of the country. But if it is below this limit then the state government could take a wise decision and go ahead. The government that ruled Karnataka in the last term, which took the state to new levels of corruption, made a an extremely wise decision and sanctioned hydel power projects across the length and breadth of the Western Ghats and made sure they were all below 20MW production and the result was mayhem! There was at least one concerned central minister who was against these power projects, not sure for what reasons, but now it was the state government’s decision. Within years, there were dams like vehicles in a traffic jam, bumper to bumper. No, it’s not against any political party, it’s against the corruption! For a rough estimation, the Kempuhole in Shirady Ghat had over 4 small dams constructed in a stretch of over 5kms and they haven’t stopped there, went ahead further and strangled the already stabbed mother nature by sanctioning another mega underground hydel project! Agony! And all those blasting and constructions, cutting down trees in the heart of these forests, was brutal, to term at the least!
I grew up on the very banks of this river and never in my 25 years had I seen it go so dry as I did in last summer. No, it’s not that we haven’t had enough rains, even during the worst droughts, this river still had water above normal level but now she has been held by her throat! When I was young, even I was so excited seeing all those machines come into my little village and talks of a dam being constructed up close. I had no clue about what the consequences were going to be and today when more and more such machines and men come down over the place, I can see the same with the localities here. We are just excited to see a new opportunity and not beyond that.
The other major consequence that has to be highlighted is the recent increase in wild life, especially elephant, attacks in the region of Sakleshpura and Kodagu which border the Western Ghats. There have been widespread discussions about elephant corridor being occupied and evacuating the people living near to forests. I have a question to all those brains with this suggestion, did we recently import elephants to these forests or did you people launch another happy family project for elephants to reproduce more? As far as I know, we always had these elephants and the people who live by the forests have been living there since ages now. If you still ask me why there have been increase in attacks then it is sheer foolishness since it doesn’t take rocket science to understand. I repeat, it is not wild animals that have barged in instead it is we, the filthy human being, who has snatched the basic rights of animals!
I remember reading an article in the kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka written by a gentleman from Tumkur, on evacuating the people living in these forest regions. I wish he had the basic sense in his head before he wrote them. The people living by forests know where to draw the limit when they tackle wilderness and know the forests hundred times better than you do, Mr. City animal. I have no clue whether you were really worried that the nature might be harmed by these people or was it that your political bosses wanted some more dams to be constructed and saw the localites as a potential threat? If you were actually concerned then why don’t you write about the mining in Bellary and other parts of Karnataka. I thought the mining is as well happening in forests and not in Kaul Bazar of Bellary. I am sorry but I had to make a mention of this, diverting from the actual topic, but the fact remains one and the same, the day your greed grows excess, you will suffer in the hands of nature.
Recently happened to read a press release of Former IIM Bangalore professor Bharat Jhunjhunwala explaining the Uttarakhand tragedy. He has lived by the Alaknanda for the last 12 years and says he has watched the unplanned and unsustainable abuse of nature. “First you make money by taking bribes for hydel projects. Then you create disasters by blasting and now thousands have died. You make money by enumerating the disaster – the government is very happy. They have ladoo in both hands,” said Jhunjhunwala. Sadly, even after all this tragedy, the Uttarakhand chief minister says that we need more dams and the common man, with a flower on his ears, still believes the Gods are the reason behind this landslides. Yes, it is the Gods, I don’t see any reason for not calling the nature as God. If she can give us so unconditionally then she has all the rights to wreck havoc when we err.
I hope at least now we learn, from the deaths and destruction that this calamity has left behind. There are more such disasters waiting to happen around the country. Land mines, dams, blasting, deforestation, go ahead.. go ahead with all your dirty tricks.. take mother earth for granted and face her wrath!
Deepest condolences to all those who lost their loved ones in this tragedy. May their souls rest in peace.
All photographs belong to respective owners and credits remain with them.