Burning Bhopal

The heat in Bhopal has increasingly become unbearable. It has been 45 degrees Celsius for the last few days and yesterday it touched 46 degrees. The predictions that I saw in the computer were very disheartening. The current weather pattern will continue till 19th June when the monsoon after hitting the subcontinent around the 10th is likely to move into the central part of the country.

June in Bhopal was never like this; it used to be cloudy and pleasant and we would switch off the air-coolers or air-conditioners as these contraptions wouldn’t be needed. There would be a few pre-monsoon showers to bring the temperatures down. But now it is so different. While there are no pre-monsoon showers the sun is blazing away and one cannot really go out even in a vehicle that is air conditioned – as, thankfully, most vehicles are these days. In fact, my wife and I have been confined in the house for around 10 days or so.

That climate has changed for the worse is now a matter of fact. People who do not believe in the phenomenon of climate change – people like Donald Trump – are lucky as they do not feel or perceive the changes. They are so luckily placed that they can describe the purveyors of climate change as having a “political agenda” and have the gall to reject their laboriously put together reports. But, apparently, it is already too late to retrace back the steps as, it looks like, we are almost next to the tipping point. An Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change has said that now the whole thing could be reversed if global emission of CO2 is reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and use of coal is totally stopped. Implementing these conditions is not possible as there are Donald Trumps of this world who wield enormous power and do not believe in global warming and have so far behaved like bulls in a china shop. Such men are unlikely to do a thing to save the world from the oncoming catastrophe. Scientists have warned that if no action is taken now to reverse the trend there could be significant changes detrimental to human life on this planet once the full effects of climate change kick in after 2030.

Global warming as a phenomenon has been in public discourse for more than a couple of decades. The conservation of the environment with the centrality of trees and forests in the effort has been emphasised over and over again by the scientists studying the phenomenon. The print media has been very pro-active in reporting the developments on the environment front. And yet, it is now reported that during the last two decades Bhopal lost 26% of its greenery. Experts estimate that if the felling of trees continues in the city at the same rate (which is very likely) greenery that was once 67% of the land area of the town will remain only on 3% of its area.

Worse, in the last five years the city administrators are reported to have felled more than 250,000 trees that were more than forty years old. Obviously, all these hundreds of thousands trees were planted as the newly-designated capital of the state started digging roots in the newer and virgin areas of the town. All these trees were cut down in the name of development of the city and the government projects that should have taken care to preserve the trees instead of cutting them down. Hundreds of thousands of trees in a small area of a small city means a lot and no wonder Bhopal lost its salubrity. The average temperature shot up by 5 to 7 degrees Celsius and what we have today is the blistering heat and hot winds of Central India. The sun beats down relentlessly as there is nothing like a dense vegetative cover to temper its heat. To beat the heat people use air-conditioners, a jungle of external units of which can be seen in the business district of MP Nagar that too spew hot air out into the surroundings.

The latest reports say while the civic bodies of the town (if I am not mistaken, there are three) went on merrily hacking down trees in the city the compensatory afforestation was carried out tens of kilometers away. That did not give any benefit to the townsfolk who are virtually withering in the heat. According to the civic bodies wherever trees were hacked down there was no space available for compensatory plantation. If such was the case the trees in question should not have been cut down. The need for development could not have been so compelling that uncalled for hardship should be inflicted on the citizens. But that is the way our civic bodies behave – with least amount of civic sense and least care for the comfort of the citizens.

It appears to me to be a sensible matter to hold the civic bodies and their heads accountable for this neglect of micro climate of the city. Simultaneously, the head of the department of environment and the chief minister need to be asked to answer for their gross indiscretion and failure to guard the interests of the people. One wishes that somebody hauls them up in the courts for their cavalier attitude towards as vital a matter as the local climate.

The planet seems to be hurtling unchecked towards disaster and the civilization that has been built up over the millennia is under serious threat of getting extinguished by none other than the humans who claim to be the most intelligent animals in the universe. One does not really know what happens when we cross the tipping point. We the old guard are going to pass on. It is the up-and-coming generation that will get the worst of it – unless they quickly get into the act themselves to save the planet.


More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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