Don't kill plants for your own security, Mr VIP
Debanish Achom *
The crater left by the bomb explosion in the middle of NH-2 on Oct 1 2012 :: Pix - TSE
Nobody needs to be told that the environment is always the first casualty of any developmental work. But the strange thing in Manipur is that, besides bearing the birth pangs of unsustainable urbanisation, the environment will suffer the most for the sake of some make-believe sense of security.
The local media recently reported that the chief secretary, after a meeting with state home department officials, has come up with a 'brilliant' idea to stop frequent IED attacks on Tiddim Road and elsewhere. However, the kind of brilliance the administration seems to be radiating is this: remove all plants from road medians since they help conceal improvised explosive devices. The authorities plan to fill the medians with cement and stones.
As if choking the town with umpteen number of fuel-guzzling autorickshaws is not enough, the administration has stooped to another level of short-sightedness with the suggestion that it is better to raze a perfectly good road of any greenery than to provide better security. Of course better security doesn't come for free; it needs hard work, coordination and labour – and most people tend to avoid work. Uprooting some harmless plants doesn't even break a respectable amount of sweat.
The state home department says VIPs often use Tiddim Road to go to the airport, and the frequent IED attacks pose a risk to them. But is it worth uprooting saplings for the convenience of some handful of VIPs in the long run? These so-called 'important people' will fade away soon without any tangible contribution to people's lives, while the utility of the saplings will benefit our children when they grow up – imagine a clean, tree-lined road where one can breathe fresh air on a cool summer evening. We envy the lush green sights of cities in other countries when we stare at our TVs, and we don't waste a moment to mouth what can be done to straighten things here after whooping down some three pegs of hard liquor.
Yet, when it comes to preventing bombings on a stretch no longer than a dog's five-minute walk, all our 'learned' authorities can come up with is to turn the road into a mini desert, despite having the resources to think of other means. Security personnel who are languishing in less risky areas without any real 'job' should be made to man the entire airport stretch. That will give them something to get busy with in the first place – and prevent IED attacks and save the plants as well.
The state administration is well-known for going to the extremes in civic matters. It doesn't seem to know the value of settling for a middle ground that benefits everybody. For example, it paid no attention to how cycle-rickshaws can be run more efficiently in such a small town, and instead screwed the place with hundreds of polluting automobiles in the holy name of development. A better way would have been to keep the number of cycle-rickshaws in harmony with that of autorickshaws. Elderly persons, who would have otherwise conveniently found a cycle-rickshaw on a narrow leikai street, is now forced to walk quite a distance to catch an autorickshaw. Add to this the insane amount of automobile exhaust that people, especially children, inhale these days.
If there was ever a way out, it has been effectively sealed with the home department's move to uproot plants on the road to the airport. The 'educated' officials, including the chief secretary himself, in drawing the conclusion have overlooked certain fallacies that are both scientific and commonsensical in nature.
Firstly, a majority of town planners across the globe are moving away from the practice of cementing roadsides and medians because such a method depletes groundwater level. Municipal corporations of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore have learnt the lesson the hard way after trees started dying since concrete blocked water seepage to roots.
Secondly, a lot of effort and money had gone towards planting the saplings on Tiddim Road. Uprooting them when they have just started to bloom is like sending children to college, only to shoot them dead on their graduation day. Just because there is a terror threat in central Delhi, will the city government cut all trees surrounding India Gate to prevent terrorists from concealing bombs?
And thirdly, cutting trees for a short-term goal is simply a bad example. The current trend is such that almost every civic administrator everywhere pays attention to the debate raging over climate change. Even the mere act of drilling a sewage pipe or laying a road involves keeping the environment intact as much as possible. Small acts make a big difference.
But those small acts are not happening here.
Ultimately, tomorrow's children will suffer the most as today's VIPs would have long gone by then, having enjoyed the spoils of their time selfishly without giving any thought to the consequences. They won't even have to live through the deadly pollution that will eat into the lungs of the next generation. The least they can do, if they are willing, when they grow old and lie on their deathbed, is to apologise to children for leaving a mess of a town once fondly known as Imphal.
* Debanish Achom wrote this article to e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at debanish9a(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on November 20, 2012
* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.