It is encouraging to see that concern for the city’s environment is on the rise amongst the youngsters. Demonstrations are being held and plays are being enacted on street corners and elsewhere bringing home to the audiences the value the people get from a robust and green environment, And what provides it are trees, and more trees.
The provocation for this sudden upsurge in environmentalism among the young men and women was the revival of the proposal for construction of a rest house and some residential units for the elected members of the Legislative Assembly. The proposal was initially mooted after the 2014 State Elections. It was, however, withdrawn in the face of huge uproar by the general public as the proposal involved in cutting down a few thousand trees enhancing the depleting tree cover in the Arera Htlls in particular and the town in general. Then, as well as now, the proposal had been initiated by the Speaker of the House. While the Speaker of the last Assembly saw reason in the arguments of the environmentalists who were opposing him the Speaker of the current Assembly seems to be a little more tenacious and does not seem to be in a mood to yield.
One must admit the lead in opposing the avoidable construction for our worthies was taken by Dainik Bhaskar, the local Hindi daily. As usual the newspaper takes its justifiable stance in favour of the city’s environment then the people who too are equally concerned chip in with their opinions and statements. This helps in fleshing out the newspaper’s stance giving it a greater substance. The newspaper appears to have a committed team in its stable of reporters which ferrets out facts from closed and dust-laden files to bring them out for the readers’ benefit.
As usual this time, too, the team has done remarkable work and brought out facts that were forgotten due to efflux of time. Some of the facts brought out by the newspaper are
- There are 230 worthies in the Assembly but already there are as many as 272 residential units available for them. Besides, the Members have cornered several flats that have come up under various projects in the town under due provisions made for them. They either live there or, according to some other reports, have rented them out.
- As much as 33 acres land is still lying unused in the old MLAs rest house area which can be used for erecting new buildings when required. There would seem to be no need for felling trees in a new area of Arera Hill which has since been highly colonized and has lost most of its greenery.
- Post 2014 elections when the former Speaker proposed the new construction for our worthies the first act was to cut down around 1150 trees. The authorities seem to be always ready with axes in hand to chop down any tree that they see standing on a piece of land proposed for any construction. Eventually, the Speaker’s plan did not materialize but the trees stayed felled. Perhaps in a bid to cover up, a report of planting of 3000 trees was prepared – a report that was patently false.
Felling of trees for various development projects in urban areas has come in for criticism by superior courts in the country. Journalists have also been active in criticizing the loss of green cover all over the urban landscape in India. Worse, Bhopal has been flagged for serious implications due to loss of trees and consequential rise in temperature. Last July the newspaper Asian Age reported “an ominous climate change may be knocking on the doors of the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, now almost a barren shadow of it once green past”.
The paper reported a phenomenal increase in the city’s Mean Maximum Temperature (MMT) during the last ten years. As per the weather data the MMT which was 33.22 degrees Celsius in 2010 has galloped to 42 degrees Celsius in 2019. No wonder the city then had a climate that was every bit salubrious. The paper said that the massive loss of green cover in the city was the key factor in turning it into a heat chamber during the last summer. The city has earned the dubious distinction of being one of the four cities that are the fastest in losing their respective green cover. The newspaper quoted Commissioner Bhopal Division who is reported to have said while launching a tree planting campaign, “We are already late. A climate disaster is waiting to happen if the situation is not reversed”. Presiding over a plantation drive the Commissioner is enlisting several organizations including the Indian Army for assistance.
A recent report in a local newspaper said that it is the “netas” and “babus” who are champions in felling of trees. If the city is to be saved from a rising MMT people, especially young ones, have to take concerted action to stop “netas” and “babus” from wielding the axe.