As recently as the turn of the last century, primary forests clothed perhaps half the subcontinent if you then caste a hundred seeds about indiscriminately, half of them were likely to take root because our soils were fertile, our climate moderate and our water resources abundant.
Urban India began to colonize rural India. Dams were constructed without considering whether or not the nation was profiting from them. Mines were dug indiscriminately pesticides such as DDT were sprayed in such massive doses that instead of insects, human began to die from the pesticides. Nuclear reactors were built without worrying about the fact that there was no place to dump the lethal waste they would continually produce.
As for our forests almost any one with an axe began to cut timber for sale to the highest urban bidder. Tigers, elephants and migrating birds began to be shot, trapped and otherwise killed by free Indians who claimed it was their human right to emulate erstwhile masters. This monumental damage was not the result by some transient insanity. It is still going on.
This is why the cheetah is extinct, the lions are on the road to extinction and why we still lose a tiger every single day to poachers. It is also why more forests are being cut on the Indian subcontinent today than ever before in our recorded history.
Not surprising, galloping soil has overtaken millions of hectares of once fertile farmlands. And there is not one river in India whose water can safely be drunk. Predictably, landslides and floods are the order of the day. Our GDP and per capital income have gone marginally. But more Indians go to bed thirsty than during British rule.
The above tragedies unfolded over decades but politicians and developers berated those who protested against the destruction of our ecological foundations. “India is too poor a country to care about out environmental protection.” They said as they trashed Indian ecological foundations in the name of development.
Today of course, people know better. ? Young persons are asking for the tiger to be saved and they run campaigns to recycle wastes. Every political party manifesto claims to be championing the environment.
Paradoxically, the level of environmental awareness has reached dizzy heights even as the degradation of our surroundings has plummeted to in fathomable depths. Increasingly environmental rumbles have begun to be heard, from the most unexpected quarters, businessmen, doctors, tour operators, traders, even some politicians.
Some people question “In a land where people are dying why should we squander time and money to save wild life and the environment” Particle Physicists are answering that question for us now, together with geologists, botanists, zoologists, mathematicians and evolutionists. For all our technological advances, all our giant leap of knowledge, we are still intellectual midgets in a world of impossibly advanced natural system.
Even the mechanism that causes one solitary flower to bloom, for instance, has not yet been replicated in a laboratory? We need moths, bees and butterflies to pollinate flower. We need squirrels, monkeys and birds to disperse seeds. We need termites to recycle the cellulose in dead plants so those nutrients can be returned to the earth without the Gardner of our fragile Eden life on earth would be impossible.