Does India have a green conscience?

Taken at Aarey Colony last year
This whole Aarey Colony business has left me feeling tired and hopeless. When I visited this cocoon of greenery last year, I was astonished that such a place had been allowed to exist in a commerce-driven city like Mumbai. I should have known it was too good to last. After all, we are talking about a city where the BMC sneaks behind our backs to chop acres of trees by night; where 90 per cent of the populace does not hesitate to chuck wrappers into the lap of nature and most trucks and vans have never had a pollution check done in years. This is a city whose authorities don't care about anything except 'development' and commerce. I have begun to think of development as a bad thing; because it almost always means the death of thousands of innocent trees and the birds and creatures that have their homes in them.

It beats me as to why such a religious country has so little reverence for the environment. Appreciating the world we live in is not philanthropy; it's a logical homage to the ecosystem that allows us to breathe fresh air, rejuvenate ourselves in beautiful places and reap the benefits of rich natural resources. Yet it seems that our government does not understand this simple truth and is only invested in hastening the collapse of the planet in the name of development.

They say they are going to build a park in Aarey Colony, on the lines of international landscaped gardens. Well I don't want your stupid manmade parks. I want glorious wilderness; so much more welcoming, free and pure. I want to ask the officials who drew up this soulless plan - have you never enjoyed a quiet evening surrounded by hills and endless patches of unmown grass? Would you really prefer spending your weekends in the midst of scalding grey concrete? Is that the kind of world you want to create for your children? But I'm being naive, am I not? It's all about generating more and more revenue and filling up the coffers until more houses can be bought; trips taken and cars ordered. It's all about material gains and golden words like employment and GDP.

I went to Europe for the first time last year and I was struck by the quality of the air they breathed; the parks around every corner and the absence of unseemly fumes from the oldest and the cheapest vehicles on the streets. Compare this with my gruelling bus ride yesterday from BKC to Kurla station; a distance of just 3 KM but it took me one hour in the evening thanks to the unyielding traffic. And I spent the entire time inhaling noxious fumes from my own bus and the surrounding vehicles. I don't know how much damage I did to my lungs in that one hour but I hardly had a choice in the matter.

These days, when I visit a beautiful natural spot, I commit it to memory, I take as many pictures as I can and I write about it in minute detail because I cannot be sure that I'll be able to visit that spot again, in a few years time. This is a country where natural beauty is a disposable commodity and why shouldn't that be the case when we have wonderful, 'educated' citizens who use the world beyond their windows as a vast garbage bin? How many more fights should I pick up with people in the local train for teaching their children to throw orange peels on the floor? How many more instances where the tea tastes bitter after reading a report of more trees being murdered? Even if we do save Aarey this time, what when another heartless, brainless fool comes up with an even more lucrative plan to commercialise the area?

I don't know who deserves more condemnation - the government or people like you and me, who are content to witness the ruin of our city and eventually, the ruin of the country and the planet. It is a hopeless and a Godless world where people don't have a green conscience.