One of the most harmful effects of the so-called "development" is the sheer destruction of nature, in its most beautiful and lively form.  

We have no shame or guilt in cutting down thousands of trees, plants and whatever, to just build new factories, giant bridges and so on.  While many of us can indeed appreciate the need for development, we should first of all understand what development we are talking about and, better still, how we can achieve this development without harming nature, particularly fertile lands that give us food of a very tall order.

This is better said than done.  Thousands of acres of very fertile land, made very fertile thanks to the superb Krishna river that flows near it, have been acquired by the Andhra Pradesh Government to build a new "Capital" city.  The Chief Minister, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, talks of his great feelings for the very poor,but has gone ahead with acquiring lands at just Rs.50.000/- per acre.  Is this justice?  Is this a fair price?

Apart from destroying nature, the AP Government has also destroyed all nature surrounding the so-called sites chosen for the Capital city, as the real estate business has now reached levels never reached before, with values going through the roof. 

Is this development, really essential?  What will happen to food security, even in a decade from now?

Mr Chandrababu Naidu could have easily built a new capital city, by merely expanding the existing city of Vijayawada, or chosen a site that does have a river stream nearby, but which will still not have the same greenery and cultivable lands as at the moment.  

Every bit of it is going to build a city of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.  Our society has numerous examples where such lands are acquired for "development".  

Each one of us is happily into this game, as we, the middle classes also have our own axe to grind.  This is a really sorry state of affairs and can easily destroy the entire agricultural base of India.

Agriculture is still the main occupation of millions of people.  If the people in the villages do not cultivate in their farms a huge amount of vegetables and fruits and spices, we cannot sit comfortably in our air-conditioned houses and enjoy our lunch or dinner.  ( Air conditioners are the worst energy guzzlers, and we are once again guilty here).

Anyone who has paid a single visit to the Tanjore and Nagapattinam districts of Tamil Nadu, will be dumb struck with the kind of natural beauty that is still there.  Thus far, since a huge number of acres -- possibly the most fertile lands in the entire country -- are in the hands of powerful politicians and landlords, any attempt at industrialization has been resisted, by one and all.  There is a severe shortage of agricultural labor, but whatever is available -- even at high wages -- helps sustain the natural habitat.  

However, even here, the areas adjoining the main roads, have all been converted into houses and plots and flats and apartments, making Tamil Nadu, the most urbanized State of India.  The pace of urbanization continues unabated and at this rate, over seventy percent of the State's population will continue to live in the urban areas in less than a decade.

All this is going on, in a State where the literacy level is very high, lakhs of engineers are produced every year, and the birth ratio is still fairly healthy when compared to the Hindi states.  

However, the present trends, which clearly indicate destruction of nature in every form, should be clearly discouraged.  

Some private initiatives, launched by activists like Medha Patkar are highly commendable.  Similarly, those in some isolated pockets of the country also do need mention, though the scale and momentum of such efforts should increase much more.  

For instance, there is an organization called "Siritholi", which concentrates on desilting small ponds and the big ponds in and around Coimbatore city.  It goes on organizing, seminars, conferences and so on, involving huge numbers of the general public, in things like rain water harvesting and so on.  Every single drop of rain is saved, and the regulation of water supplies, including saving of water in whatever form.  

The activities of this organization has helped the ground water levels of Coimbatore city being recharged to the maximum extent.  In fact, the general public is now very much aware of the ill effects of over exploitation of ground water resources.  

For example, there is an industrial complex called the Small Industrial Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited (SIPCOT), some eighty kilometers from Coimbatore city, in a small town called Perunduthurai.  Sometime ago, the Coca-Cola company sought and obtained a license for the manufacture of Coca-Cola soft drink.  However, the local public raised protests as one man, and a huge number of opposition parties also entered the fray.  When the public threatened to take the case to the court, the State Government woke up, and revoked the license granted to the multinational company.

Press reports indicate that even common people have taken up the cause of depletion of ground water resources.  The over-exploitation of ground water resources is very harmful, more so, if it is for a soft drink, manufactured by a multinational company.  The public is becoming more and more aware of the dangers of destroying nature, and this is a really good sign.

Excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers has completely spoiled the ground water in hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile land in India.  This has actually lead to even blood cancer and other dangerous diseases.

There is enough indication that any form of food from nitrogenous fertilizers is very harmful for health.  Hence, there is a big movement towards organic foods in many parts of India.  Organic fertilizers are now very common, and a huge number of organizations are in the filed now. 

This is exactly what is needed.  We need to preserve nature in all its beauty and never allow any destruction of nature, in whatever form, and at any point in time. 

Let us learn to also figure out how we can collectively do a good job here.


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