Monday, October 31, 2005

Towards a greener, cleaner world

Towards a greener, cleaner world
Aruna Chandaraju talks to Suresh Heblikar who feels that to be eco-friendly, one needs to show respect towards nature by protecting it.
Deccan Herald

Why can’t Indian men and children wear shorts, lungis or half-sleeve shirts in summer? - is a question, we least expect from an environmentalist. But for someone like Suresh Heblikar, concern for environment begins with things, we normally consider trivial. “You spend twice as much water to rinse long trousers, shirts and three-piece suits. You know, we will have lesser of these precious resources in future and should think of using it sensibly.”

Obviously, Heblikar’s interest does not end with water. Among the wider environmental issues, he feels that there is a pressing need for afforestation.

He is currently working on his third urban afforestation project in the police lands at Koodlu. With full cooperation from the community, the 70 acres will soon be filled with trees. The three year-old Senaranya project in Koramangala and Airport Ring road, a 200 acre land owned by the army, with 40,000 trees was carried out with help from the Indo-Norwegian Environmental Programme. “It is one of Asia’s biggest lung spaces and will bring about a micro-climatic change,” Heblikar says.

The other project was near Bannerghatta, where 8,000 trees were planted. Heblikar’s own home is full of greenery and he has even planted 300 now-flourishing trees in his neighbourhood.

E-waste is also something that disturbs Heblikar, as unused mobile phones, PCs and other e-gadgets are piling up. As they are non bio-degradable, they are posing the biggest threat to environment. He feels it is time for us to follow the West, where they break, shred and degrade them.

Heblikar is also working on coastal ecology - an area which is being looked at with keen interest after the recent tsunami. He contends that building a stone wall along the coastline will cause disaster on a large scale. “Stone walls will kill coastal ecology. It’s aesthetically ruinous and can never be an effective natural barrier,” he says.

He suggests a bio-shield in the form of coastal vegetation, the depletion of which, has aggravated the situation in coastal areas. Mangroves do a great job - a storm or a huge wave only causes trees to sway and bend, but they return to their original position, albeit a little battered.

He cites Chennai’s example where sandbinders and casuarinas have gradually disappeared along the coast, destroying the rich coastal ecology. Unfortunately most of these natural barriers across India’s coasts have been lost to development.

With little hesitation, Heblikar points at big corporations, governments and the educated as the biggest causes of pollution. He elaborates that tribal and traditional communities leave nature undisturbed. Fishing communities for instance, used simple boats, not the mechanised ones, as it would disturb fish in the breeding season. They never do deep-sea fishing or destroy sand dunes - the home to rich vegetation and marine life, he says.

He defines environmental activism as one which stems from respect towards nature, something that even religions and philosophies advocate. Rainwater harvesting is imperative and protecting bio-diversity hotspots on the Western Ghats, he says, will be the next areas of focus for his organisation - Eco-Watch.


Plant as many trees in your house and around it too.

If you don’t have that kind of space grow indoor plants and potted plants on your terrace, verandahs, and any available niches at home, they will provide an oxygen-rich atmosphere and combat indoor air pollution.

If you have a car or a bike, minimise its use. Don’t use it for short distances, walk instead. This saves your petrol bills, reduces pollution, gives you healthy exercise and saves valuable foreign exchange for the nation (India’s import bills are about 80,000 crore).

Children, youngsters and workmen must use cycles as far as possible. Of course, for this, we need cycle tracks (common in the West, but rare in India).

Use water judiciously and recycle it as much as possible. Water, which is not dirty,which is used for rinsing clothes, utensils or the car, can be re-used for gardening.

Practice rainwater harvesting at home.

Train children to bathe in cold water as far as possible.

Control e-waste - Changing your PC, mobile phone, digital products frequently - discarding and dumping the old ones increases environmentally harmful e-waste.


At Monday, November 7, 2005 at 10:36:00 AM GMT+5:30, Blogger Vijay Vaidyanathan said...


Your comments are all wonderful and good. Even I would like to do something for my neighbourhood in cheenai. But I'm not sure where to start and how to start. I dont think even my friends will come forward to do anything. Personally all of them are resonsible and we have developed a good civic sense. But doing anything out of the routine, I'm not sure. I have potted plants at home, have installed rain water harvesting etc. But outside my house the place is bad and is just a concrete jungle. Do you have any ideas ?


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