Monday, January 29, 2007

President Kalam and Siruthuli

It is always refreshing to listen to President Kalam. Last year, in his Republic day address he spoke at length about India's energy dependence and the way towards energy independence. This year he touches on a wider variety of developmental issues. Two things caught my attention this time.

First is the project Siruthuli -Clean Kovai, Green Kovai. A grassroots project started by Coimbatoreans to help the city be green again. Plans include large scale rain water harvesting, reconnecting canals created during the Chera period, waste management and afforestation. Present day Coimbatore suffers from water shortage and ground water contamination. Friends of mine from Coimbatore will surely find this effort very encouraging. For those not familiar with Coimbatore, it is a city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. Once known for its pleasant climate and sweet water.

Secondly, President's take on the environment. He says,
Environment can become clean and upgraded only through the country wide active participation of citizens. People as a team can participate in cleaning the environment
Industrialists should follow the prescribed norms for environmental standards in all their institutions and make the buildings friendly to differently challenged people. Government employees should keep their offices and their environment clean as they would like to keep their homes. Parents and teachers should teach about the need for environmental friendly requirements to the younger citizens. Citizens can plant trees and nurture them in their neighborhood every year as a mission.
It is the responsibility of all the stakeholders including the citizens to promote cleanliness in all these public facilities.

I agree every Indian needs to be involved, but isn't it a little naive to leave everything to good intentions? I feel India needs a powerful Environment Protection agency. Not the Bush diluted version of US EPA. But an agency with teeth. The kind that can take on industrialists, politicians and citizens alike. recently reported of an Indian Railways effort to extend railway lines into sensitive ecological areas without proper environment clearance. Such things happen because people know they can get away with it.

If all of India is to come together to improve our environment, there first needs to a strong and transparent regulatory framework.

Having said that, one cannot ignore the power of grassroots. It is estimated that India has about 1 - 2 million NGOs. I came across Project Green Hands recently (Hat tip: Anand). ISHA foundation planted over 7 lakh saplings across Tamil Nadu over a period of 3 days. Possibly setting a Guinness record. They plan to break that record this year in October.

You can read President's entire speech here


Anand said...

I am glad I took the time and read a few of your postings. I am amazed how involved you are with anything green, your writing skills and the amount of travel. Your photos from MI reminds me of home. Well, even dust reminds me of home :) Moving on.

I agree India needs a strict powerful EPA. It also needs awareness. I am sure there are kids in the cities who believe food comes from industries. It is a good step to include environmental education in schools, but I hope it doesn't become one more subject.

Lets us do everything and anything we can to save the only home we have.

Riot said...

Many thanks.

I wonder how environmental education as a subject is being perceived in schools. Is it effective ? I will have to find out....

Sriravi said...

Yes! Coimbatore!

Proud to be born and bred there with the 'Siruvani' water still running in the arteries.
The condition of the parched lakes,dwindling rivers and scanty water supply in CBE is quite alarming.

Heard about the pompous 'sirutuli' in August.
The elites launch, talk and retreat into their comforts. Follow up is the missing action.

Under the strict vigil of Jayalalitha, in her days, compelled every house to dig a sump to collect rain water to improve ground water level.
Most of them have disappeared now.

The stinking garbage heaps and wind blown plastic littering the suburbs are other serious threats.

When basic necessities and awareness are lacking; no miracle can be expected.

Riot said...

I agree follow up is vital. I also agree that politicians come up with kneejerk policies which create no value.

I also believe that for initiatives like Siruthuli to succeed, there has to be public participation and engagement. I did talk to few friends from CBE and they said good things about the project and were of the opinion that progress is being made. I will try and find out more.