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Sensitising people to environmental needs

RANJANI GOVIND
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Celebrating one day in a year is going to make no difference if we do not make some abiding resolutions for initiating action in our lifestyles, says Chandrashekar Hariharan in an interview with RANJANI GOVIND

It is redeeming that the world has turned in recent years to celebrating a few significant days that seek to sensitise people to the environment. We have just had the World Sparrow Day (March 20), the Plantation Day (March 21) and today, the World Water Day (March 22).

These three successive events herald causes that are relevant and of concern for all people on the planet. We have about 40 such dates in a year. World Environment Day on June 5, World Ocean Day, World Earth Day, Meat-Out Day [to tell people that every kg of meat consumes about 40-100 times more water than vegetarian foods], Forestry Day, Meteorological Day, Fossil Fools Day [April 1], International Day for Biodiversity, Green Consumer Day, and so on.

“Celebrating one day in a year is going to make no difference if we do not make some abiding resolutions for initiating action in our homes, offices, or personal lives,” says Chandrashekar Hariharan, Executive Chairman and Co-founder of BCIL ZED Homes, on the occasion of Plantation Day and Water Day.

The ZED Foundation, the non-business endeavour of the BCIL-ZED Habitats, has been one of the leading lights of the green campaign that offer sustainable living methods, often advising and holding workshops and campaigns for going about the green process too.

Mr. Hariharan spoke to The Hindu-HABITAT on why Plantation Day has larger and wider perspectives to it that are important enough to inspire people to contemplate and bring in the changes.

Excerpts of the interview…

Explain your take on Plantation Day being not necessarily for planting trees…

I urge people not to plant trees if they want to go green! It is still a minority of people who understand that green is not merely about trees. It is about how we respect water and energy and all living beings including the sparrow and multitude of living species that try to co-exist with us in our cities. Few know that urban forests host wild species in every large city. Bangalore alone has over 374 wild species!

How are we going to tackle the offenders?

City forest wardens do a thankless job of finding defaulters who trade in such species which are helpless and extremely vulnerable to human exploitation. There are species that are sold for their value as delicacies right here in Bangalore. The Wildlife Conservation Act is an excellent enactment, but fails in implementation. It is hard to pin down violations. Tracking offenders is like finding a needle in a haystack. As individuals and as a society can we get responsible?

No need for trees, but we need soft-scaping?

“Don’t plant a tree” has been my refrain when people say they want to go green. Institutions like the Indian Green Building Council are urging urban planners to have 30 per cent of cities to be soft-scaped with clusters of trees and parks, urging builders to breach the conventional business norm and secure a minimum 30 per cent of residential and office campuses to go physically green with plants.

Softscape refers to the elements of a landscape that comprise live, horticultural elements. Soft-scaping can include, flowers, plants, shrubs, smaller-sized garden trees, flower beds etc,.

So, vertical buildings don’t make a difference to the required green cover?

If the buildings went vertical in any built space, that would release more such land that don’t reflect heat and sink more carbon dioxide in our cities that are growing alarmingly on pollution and air quality contaminants. Plantation Day is about our forests, our rivers that are born in these forests, and the intricate culture of biodiversity that our tribal people breathe as life to these vulnerable but extremely vital eco-systems. Arunachal Pradesh alone has 2,800 hydel dams cleared and the damage to entire swathes of forests in that sensitive sub-Himalayan eco-zone will be incalculable when these dams are raised. The havoc that the hydel dams in Garhwal have wreaked is well known.

Plantation Day is not about simple folk like you and I planting a few more trees. It’s about governments and governance being sensitised to the brutality of public decisions and public expenditure. If the day has to be celebrated it has to wake up people to stir an Arab Spring that lead to decisions that impact our plants, trees and forests.


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