Environmentalists point out some home truths at IIM-B Earth Day function

“Who are we fooling when we sell the idea of ‘Green Bangalore’? Bangalore is not green; it is an ugly sprawl,” said Suresh Hebilkar, founder and Chairman of Eco Watch, at Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B).

Addressing students, faculty and staff at the IIM-B Library to mark the Earth Day, Hebilkar quoted statistics to prove his point: From 1,000 lakes in the past, the city now has 70 lakes and 50 per cent of them are encroached upon. Forty per cent of apartments in the city get no fresh water but depend on tankers; groundwater level has receded to well below 1,000 feet; and 111 villages that were once vital lung spaces have been urbanised, resulting in the loss of ecosystems and livelihoods.

‘Green schools’

“We must have ‘green schools’ that create awareness about rainwater harvesting and solid waste management. We must popularise the concept of cluster village development and revive lakes not by building fancy jogging tracks or installing colour lights but by ensuring that catchment areas are not given to industrial parks,” Heblikar suggested, offering examples from his work as an environmentalist and filmmaker.

“At Byramangala, near Bidadi, the lake which sustained the livelihood of 240 families and where I shot the blockbuster film Aalemane, is now home to two massive industries. In Dharwad, Yelagiri Lake which was like a sea when I was a student of Karnatak University, is now a puddle. Dharwad was famous for its writers, singers and thinkers because nature shapes great minds. Sadly, today the eco belt between Tungabhadra-Malaprabha, once known as ‘belavada naadu’ for its rich flora and fauna and cereals, pulses and vegetables, houses 200 industries and Dharwad gets its vegetables all the way from Bijapur. These are perfect examples of mindless urban planning,” Heblikar said.

Climate change

Vinay Rao, Climate Change and Sustainability Adviser, Climate3c, focused on the perils of climate change. “It will be visible in our lifetime; not in a hundred years from now”.

Be it melting glaciers in the polar caps, swathes of Amazon rainforest that have been scythed, mountains in Peru that have been gouged for copper or flooding rivers in India and China, they sound the death knell for the human race, he warned.

PD Jose, an expert on climate change, drew attention to a four-step process that could prevent conflicts that arise from the pressure on scarce natural resources. “With a spirit of empathy and cooperation, we can ensure change,” he said.

Earlier in the afternoon, Devanath Tirupati, Director In-charge, IIMB, highlighted IIMB’s academic initiatives on the subject of sustainability.

(This article was published on April 23, 2014)
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