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It pays to care

K. SUNDARA RAJ
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LEAFING THROUGH Nagesh Hegde’s book on environmental issues plaguing us at this time is a fine book. It not only covers a wide range of issues, but also comes with a tempered analysis

Nammolagina Dhundhumaara by Nagesh Hegde

Bhoomi Books, Rs. 120

If someone is looking for an extremely readable book on contemporary environmental issues in India, and more particularly in Karnataka, the book, Nammolagina Dhundhumara is the best choice.

Nagesh Hegde is a well-known name in the fields of environmental studies, literature and media. Being a columnist in a Kannada newspaper, his writings on Karnataka have won the hearts of many. His present effort is directed towards convincing the readers that all natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunami, floods, drought, etc., are the products of our unlimited, unjustifiable, ambitious ‘developmental’ projects rather than any aberration in nature.

‘Dhum-dhum’ is a puranic demon who appears as a volcano and creates havoc on people. A king wages a big battle against him. Though the king is able to kill him in the end, he loses all his 99 children in the battle. Thus he earns the name ‘dhundhumara’ – the one who killed the demon ‘dhum-dhum’. Nagesh Hegde uses this myth in order to send a message to his readers that we have within us the qualities of the king who claims to have done something great by killing the demon, but only after sacrificing all his children. The story, also becomes a metaphor, for all the environmental issues that we are confronting now.

Hegde covers a wide range of environmental concerns in his 16 essays. But there seems to be one exception – his essay that deals with the issues during cold war regime (between USA and USSR) though interesting, does not gel with the concerns of the other essays in the book.

His essay on the bypass roads (which could be construed as a cultural metaphor) that are being made these days to connect important cities reads like a story. Media’s disinterestedness towards problems of villages is also highlighted in the context of urbanisation. The irony involved in the process of each village becoming a city in some distant future is also critiqued.

There are two essays which deal with problems related to cow-slaughter. The way he looks at the issue impartially is the mark of a true scholar. The economics, the sociology, the religion, the ethics, the taboo and the sentiments of cow slaughter are discussed in great length in FAQ format.

Hegde is aghast at the defense of Indian scientists on the hybrid varieties like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Brinjal (along with Bt Cotton) which poses serious life threats like cancer, diabetes, kidney, liver and heart diseases. He candidly describes the conspiracy of Indian scientists who are serving the interests of the manufacturers of seeds rather than our farmers. His indignation at Monsanto Company which makes huge profits out of the ignorance of Indian poor farmers (who have been losing their yields out of Monsanto seeds and who have been denied access to local variety of seeds) and at the government’s consistent apathy towards the farmers’ issues, makes the reader irate with the establishment that is responsible for the helpless condition of our farmers. Similarly, the dangers faced by farmers for using organo-chlorine insecticide, Endosulfan, and the consequent banning of it in Stockholm in 2011, have been discussed at length.

In the essay – ‘Anushaktiya bhaya mattu bhanda dhairya’, Hegde makes an analysis of the monumental blunder of creating atomic ‘power’ in India which has deeper and far reaching consequences. Even after witnessing dangers in the other parts of the world where in spite of all the assured safety guards, nuclear reactors went hay-wire resulting in the loss of thousands, our policy makers are still enamored by the electrical power that is generated by atomic energy. The issue is not considered with the seriousness it demands. Our future generations have to pay heavily for all the mistakes we have been doing.

Plastic has become an inevitable part of modern life in every part of the world, but the devastating effects of using it, as depicted by Hegde, sounds threatening. But the moot question is whether we could do without it at this stage of human civilization despite a full knowledge of the hazards involved in it.

‘MudinadigaLa Purvaapara’ is an essay which deals with the lives of rivers and how human beings have been exploiting rivers for their own selfish ends. It is interesting to know that even rivers have some sort of biological clock and they also take birth, attain youth and die at old age. He cites the examples of many old rivers which are in the verge of death now. While this could be a common phenomenon in nature, the intervention of man for his own benefit has made the lives of rivers shorter and unpleasant.

There is also an essay which depicts the development of ‘green’ movement in Karnataka during seventies and eighties. The active participation of intellectuals, writers, scientists and teachers made the movement significant. But now the movement has come to a standstill for various reasons.

It could be said without any hesitation that the essays in this book is valuable for everyone who wants our biosphere to be a haven for all living beings. It is strongly suggested that the book could be prescribed for the present compulsory course, ‘Environmental Studies’, offered to undergraduate students in our colleges.

K. SUNDARA RAJ


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