Green Volunteers Conclave

The environment today is in great stress and much of that is caused by anthropogenic (humanly induced) activities resulting from a poor understanding of what the earth is and why we should treat it with respect.  One of the embedded principles in all tribal communities vis-a-vis their relationship with nature is that they give it the status of a mother.  If so, the earth should have been protected from the daily onslaughts on it by polluting our rivers and generating plastic waste that is not bio-degradable. Finding space dump such garbage is well nigh impossible and recycling plastic waste has other consequences. The Meghalaya Basin Development Authority has been forming groups of young volunteers who are cleaning up rivers, across the state and picking up carelessly strewn garbage to throw it at designated places. These young volunteers deserve commendation even though not much is reported in the mainstream media about their activities. It is ironic that while the youth are conscious of their responsibilities towards the environment, the elderly don’t seem to have got their act together.  Voluntarism by the young is in fact our only hope for the future. But voluntarism must also lead to policy advocacy if the movement is to sustain itself.

A recent effort by 16 villages in Ri Bhoi district to clean up the rivers in that district is music to the ears.  This is the beginning of the human endeavour to restore the environment. Other districts should also strive to follow this brilliant example.  The coal mining areas have already lost their rivers to acid mine drainage but the mine owners have not even started to retrieve these rivers from the devastation they have caused through the decades.  The mine owners believe that paying a token amount to the Government in the name of Environment Protection Fund releases them from the burden of responsibility for the damage caused to nature. ‘Mother Earth’ (Ka Mei Ramew) as Khasis call this earth is now groaning with pain but no one pays attention.  The coal mine owners violate mining regulations with impunity despite the regular rap on the knuckles by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). What is ironic here is that the civil societies in all the coal mining districts are all silent because of the fear of consequences that would visit any action on their part.  Can we as a state sacrifice mother earth at the altar of private profit?  The Green Volunteers Conclave should start venturing into coal and limestone territory to contain the rapid ecological destruction of those fragile ecosystems.

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