Saturday, June 5, 2010

Why do we have such few GREEN days in Indian cities?

2nd June 2010 was observed as 'Paperless Day' in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Over a hundred thousand people from government agencies and schools participated in the event in order to help tackle the environmental problem of carbon emission and deforestation.

September 22 each year is declared 'World Car Free Day'. On this day, private vehicle owners should avoid using their own transport and use public/ government services instead. Such schemes are followed by several countries like China, Britain, France, Indonesia and Columbia.

Then, of course, there is the highly popular 'Earth Hour' when, on a specified day, for a specified hour, cities all around the world switch off lights in an effort to reduce energy consumption and control climate change.

Indian cities are developing at such an amazing rate that environmental conservation almost always takes a back seat. Just ask anyone who has been in Bangalore for the last 4-5 years (like ME) and they will tell you how the cities climate is disintegrating right before our very eyes. So why don’t we have more of such GREEN initiatives running across Indian cities? Given below is a link from the Ministry of Environment & Forests site which lists its major initiatives planned for last year (2009-2010).

When I read through it, it sounded very complex, expensive and, at the end of the day, not very result oriented. Well, at least these initiatives won’t have any immediate impact towards improving the environment. State level initiatives DO get launched once in a while but these are half hearted efforts which are not followed through efficiently. It is obvious that, if we wait around for the municipalities and governments to start acting on environmental issues, we might end up living in a city that looks like a dump yard and feels like a sewer, hot, humid and smelly!

So what do we do?

What we need is well planned, well orchestrated and well executed drives like the ones mentioned at the beginning of this article. These drives can be planned by NGOs or the corporate world (Corporate Social Responsibility has got a log way to go in India). Individuals with great environment saving ideas should be able to get sufficient assistance from such institutions. We don’t want to end up with hundreds of small NGOs with limited resources. So it would be great if all the many NGOs merged into easily distinguishable and approachable departments. Once this infrastructure of Providers (Companies), Organizers (NGOs) and Workers (Volunteers) is set up and focused towards achieving specific goals that is when each and every city in India will be able to take care of its own environmental issues. Such collated strength will also enable us to get some hard to get help from the state/ central governments and ministries.

Being more organized, well funded, thoroughly planned and efficiently executed, I am sure that the people of not just India, but any country facing the kind of environmental challenges that we face, will be able to tackle the problem on a more immediate and effective basis.

And not just have ministries spending millions of rupees on research that never gets done!

While we are at it, here are some suggestions for GREEN initiatives and how often they should be held:

1. No Car Day – Once a month.
2. Paper Less Day – Once a month
3. Clean up your neighbourhood day – Once every quarter.
4. Plant a tree day – Once a year, with a commitment to take care of the tree for that year.
5. Recycling Day – Once a month. Set up collection points in as many areas as possible where people can deposit material collected over the month.
6. Family Picnic Day – Once every quarter. Families should be encouraged not to use electronics throughout this day, instead plan an outing to a local park for a fun filled, low environmental impact day.

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