Monday, August 2, 2021
Editorial

Clear & present threat

But why are we so taken aback by the scant Monsoon rain in Nagaland ~ or the Northeast? Why should we be surprised at all? Why are we talking about climate change affecting us only now? Didn’t we know that climate change became perceptible since the mid-1990s, even earlier? For a people, whose culture and economy have always been rooted to our land, couldn’t we sense the palpable change in our environment? Couldn’t we see these changes in the gradually-altered behavior of Nature around us? Have we become so distanced, so separated, from Mother Nature that we can no longer feel her pulsating heartbeat increasingly dimming? So, now that Mother Nature is slowly withdrawing and exiting from our existence because she can no longer support it ~ as it means her own demise ~ we are talking about climate change happening to us because our survival is as much under threat. Our fore-parents knew that without Mother Nature, our existence is impossible so they lived in harmony with her. But, us? When and where did we lose this knowledge? On one hand, Indian farmers have been protesting for over a year, which means food production is already dwindling. On the other hand, Nagaland and Northeastern farmers, though not protesting as in other parts of the country, are handicapped due to scant rainfall ~ and floods in some parts of Assam. This is bad enough but the exacerbating factors of the pandemic make our situation even worse. But we wanted ‘development’, 4-lane roads and everything that others have, didn’t we? So now that we have our 4-lane roads for wheels of Corporate India to ply through our region, our State, why are we talking about climate change, about scant Monsoon rains? Didn’t we know that our verdant hills and gushing streams, waterfalls and rivers would be destroyed forever and that we would have to live with our 4-lane roads and the barrenness they bring with them? The irony is that the pandemic prevents us from enjoying smooth rides on these roads. But then who knew that of the pandemic and its plans, right? On June 23, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said road construction should be consistent with the principle of sustainable development i.e. adopting safeguards for protection of wetlands, water bodies and other environmental resources ~ in relation to a road construction project at Goa, according to a PTI report. The question is: for land-based people of Nagaland or the Northeast, did we need the NGT or any agency to tell us that, when for centuries that was the core of our traditional knowledge system? It isn’t road construction alone that is devastating our environment ~ it’s also the thoughtless policies of our Governments, town planners and the greed of land sharks and the real estate industry that have destroyed our wetlands, water bodies, natural drainage systems and all other environmental resources ~ all under the guises of ‘development’. But whose ‘development’? In Nagaland, it is not only our fields of cultivable food that the scant Monsoon rains have destroyed but also threatening the health-sustaining plants and herbs that grow abundantly in our gardens and jungles, so integral to our traditional diet. Armies of pests are eating away whatever we plant and soon they will eat what’s left of us. In advanced nations food is grown in highly scientific man-made environments readily available to the wealthy but we will not reach that stage in a hurry. Ultimately, we have to make do with what’s left of our land and the Nature-grown food it produces ~ if the rain gods are merciful to us. It’s all very fine to consider constructing water-bodies but from where would water come, if the rain gods decide to traverse far away from our land? Do we have the scientific know-how to make rain and water without rain? The absence of a sustainable Nagaland State Environment Policy has been flagged on several occasions for a long ago but environment was never our priority because we took Mother Nature for granted and ruthlessly abused her. Now we pay ~ but with what currency except with human lives and human tragedies. Our mistake is that we think that climate change happens only in industrialized nations but fail to realize the indissolubility of our eco-system’s connectivity. No, none of us are immune to climate change and the dangers it presents. Lamentations now are too late and too little ~ and talk is cheap.

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