Within days of imposing the lockdown, we saw very strange things happening in nature. Delhiites saw clear water flowing in Yamuna, something they could not recall seeing before. People in Jalandhar, woke up one morning to behold a clear view of the Dhauladhar range after years. Air and water pollution were reducing – that was a visible fact!
On the other hand, in Mumbai and Pune we saw the cyclone Nisarga and in the east a super cyclone Ampan, which ravaged West Bengal, particularly the coast regions of the Sunderbans. These are the cumulative effects of the climate change, which is a long-term global pandemic. We have systematically destroyed nature and the environmentalists say that nature is hitting back in the form of super cyclones and viral pandemics like the present one. World history has seen several ‘extinctions’; and we only hope that we are not moving towards the ‘Sixth Extinction’.
We are concerned, and genuinely enough, with the ravaged economy. Experts speculate as to what will be our growth rate by the end of the year. Will it be ‘minus’ five or even worse? How shall we recover from the impact of the pandemic? The western world was severely damaged; but in recent times, the pandemic - at least the deaths – seem to be coming under control. But not in India. The cases are rising and so are the deaths. Yet, we have ‘unlocked’ and trying to be back to business. True, three months is a long time and we need to find ways to salvage the economy. But the greater danger still looms behind us – and that is climate change.
We usually end our concern with nature and climate change by ritually observing the annual environment day on June 5. The real damage began 250 years ago with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the resultant pollution. The economic advancement that came with the technological change of the industrial revolution was huge. And so was the exploitation of nature and the pollution. Most countries agree on this point; but in the annual COP meetings on environment, none of the ‘industrialised’ countries agree to pay any compensation. In fact, India and China, in the more recent COP meetings have been identified as ‘greater’ pollutant countries now and that they should also be roped in to pay compensation to the affected countries, if at all compensation has to be paid. The argument goes on and no concrete decision can be taken in the global forum for environment.
Meanwhile, common people continue to suffer. We had the super cyclone of Orissa on 1999 and a series of cyclones – Sidr, Aila, Fani, and now Ampan – in the Bay of Bengal. Climate experts say that Bay of Bengal is prone to ‘low pressures’ and ‘depressions’; but these now frequently turn into dangerous cyclones because of the warming of the sea water as an effect of climate change. Just as the health experts say that we will have to learn to live with virus ( now Covid -19, something else in the future) so do the environmentalists say that will have to live with the cyclones as long as we do not take steps to control climate change. The names Ampan and Nisarga were given before they were 'born'. The next one – yet to come – has been named as 'Gati'. We have already started living with cyclones and viral attacks as part of our life. We perhaps do not wish to go to the roots and find a cure. Human species is hell bent to see its extinction by the end of the century, as predicted.