Thursday, June 5, 2008

Erect Trees, Not Statues

Today is World Environment Day. The day was established in 1972 by the United Nations to "stimulate worldwide awareness of environmental issues and encourage political action." Going by the devastated state that our environment is today, it is clear that governments around the world have not done enough to protect our environment. Instead, several governments have been instrumental in causing irreversible damage to local environments. Even today, in the places where the effects of global warming are already visible, politicians are still busy playing petty politics.
In Mumbai, for example, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray has been busy spewing hatred between the Marathis and the North Indians to come to the forefront of Maharashtra's politics. Today, members of a local party called Shiv Sangram Sangathan attacked the house of the editor of Loksatta - a local daily; the reason of the attack was the newspaper's criticism of the government's plan to erect a 309 feet statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the Arabian Sea. Kumar Ketkar, the editor of Loksatta had suggested that the hundreds of crores of Rupees that would be required to build the statue would be better spent in cleaning up rivers, and other developmental work in Mumbai. But the leaders of the Shiv Sangram Sangathan considered this view to be an insult on Chhatrapati Shivaji. The irony is that Chhatrapati Shivaji was a man of character who always upheld the values of freedom and independence. It is shameful that leaders and groups who claim to hold Shivaji in highest regard stoop to the level of attacking the house of an editor for expressing his views about using resources judiciously. You may still disagree with his view about how government's resources should be spent, but should you be expressing your disagreement by pelting stones at someone's house.
I have always felt very inspired by Chhatrapati Shivaji, but I think the best way to respect him is not by erecting a statue of him, but to follow his principles, that of selflessly working for the benefit of citizens. Instead of erecting a 309 feet statue of Shivaji in the Arabian Sea, how about planting 309 hundred acres of mangrove on the coast of the Arabian Sea? Mumbaikars would certainly be more benefited by it. Mangroves which act like sponges can save several parts of Mumbai from getting inundated with sea water. There was an excellent report on CNN-IBN recently about the dangers of rising sea levels on Mumbai, and how mangroves can help in mitigating the problem.
It's not just Mumbai; politicians in other parts of India too have been concerned about statues, be it that of Mahatma Gandhi, Babasaheb Ambedkar, or someone else. When will the day come when our leaders start erecting trees everywhere and not statues?


  1. Right. A survey report by Outlook says 72 percent people in Mumbai want more trees, not flyovers.

  2. Thank you Anon, for sharing that information. It is very encouraging to know that a huge majority of people are concerned about the environment. I wonder why our leaders do not make environment an electoral issue, if so many people give environment a bigger priority.
    As regards trees vs. flyovers, I would like to say that flyovers, at least theoretically, can help reduce greenhouse gases, because it reduces congestion on roads and at junctions. However, most of the time, more flyovers only lead to more number of vehicles on roads; so the net effect must be negative on the environment. So people are right in choosing trees. It is very heartening that so many people want the environment to improve even at the cost of inconveniences.