Nothing but a photoshoot is useless

June 06, 2022 | 06:07 IST

Nothing but a photoshoot is useless

Planting a sapling on World Environment Day has become an extremely generic and symbolic gesture that serves no purpose. Growing more trees is important, but just putting a few shovelfuls of mud on a sapling and then pouring water on it is a photo opportunity that the political class has perfected, and that’s what is nothing less than a useless gesture. As a test, would a politician be able to tell the people the status of the sapling planted by him a year ago or ten years ago? Have saplings planted 10 years ago become trees or have they dried up due to lack of care and nourishment? It is useless to plant a young tree and not feed it at the beginning of its growth. Like any other plant, it also requires similar maintenance during the first months and years.

Young trees have been planted, but the silence on the three linear projects on this day, projects which will lead to the felling of thousands of trees, indicates how serious the policy of environmental protection is. Linear projects have become a political issue, with the opposition using them to make promises they can never keep, and the government either remaining silent on the issue or making statements in favor of the projects. As a result, the people had no serious assurance about it, either on this day or on any other.

Simultaneously, the government announced that mining operations will resume soon. This will undoubtedly give a major boost to the economy while putting money in the pockets of mine dependents who have been out of work for years. But, has there been a study to determine the effects on the environment which can then lead to a plan so that the bad practices of the past are not repeated? Again, there was no assurance on this. The state is content to plod along announcing that mining operations will resume soon.

Whether it is World Environment Day, World Biodiversity Day or Earth Day, there is only symbolism in sight and no tangible plan, although it is more the last that is required and much less the first. In the current scenario, where social media is becoming a means of showcasing the politician’s work, planting a sapling is the perfect opportunity to take a photo and then post it on the internet.

Will these days just be used for symbolic acts or will they become more meaningful? They can only become the latter if the people put pressure on the body politic to take these days seriously. Unless there is a grassroots movement this cannot happen, we cannot just expect the same stewards of the environment who have continually fought to preserve the surroundings in which we live resume the good fight. They did, they deserve to be celebrated and not taken for granted.

Just a week ago on Satehood Day, Goa government congratulated many people who have contributed to the growth of Goa over the past decades. Ironically, there were no environmentalists there, although these people played an extremely important role in saving the environment for future generations. Their contribution is as appreciated, if not much more, than that of some of those who were commended by the government that day. On World Environment Day, these men and women who stood up for the environment deserved to be remembered. The state may have forgotten them, but the common man who benefited from their hard work will not let them be forgotten.

Goa has missed yet another opportunity to make World Environment Day work for it. But given the way the environment is threatened, this requires not only a day dedicated to the ambient but an entire year. Only this can save the environment.

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