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Taking Responsibility

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Uttarakhand has finally had a spell of rain and snow after a dry December. While this will have brought some relief for farmers and horticulturists, it must not be forgotten that this is ‘abnormal’ weather that can be attributed to the overall climate change being experienced globally. Even as the Government of India, scientists and departments concerned are making the effort to adopt mitigating practices and technologies, the average Indian still, by and large, remains unconcerned. When it comes to making lifestyle changes that would help in the effort, Indians remain behind the curve. While the low income groups cannot be blamed for being focused more on somehow making a living, it is unacceptable that the better-off are failing to contribute to the cause.

Not a day passes without reports from India’s cities and towns about overflowing landfills that cannot cope with the non-recyclable trash being generated by the residents in increasing amounts. Despite claims to the contrary by scientists and companies, there is very little to show in terms of adopting recyclable materials for packaging. In fact, the contrary is visible with new products appearing on the shelves that use such material in greater amounts.

The same goes for generating emissions – be it from factories, power plants or vehicles – the sense of responsibility is visibly lacking. This has made the air in numerous cities unbreathable – Delhi is just more in the news. The nation cannot merely depend on government regulations and enforcement to reduce emissions; there has to be voluntary contribution at the individual level by making the right choices – even if it may seem more expensive in the short term.

The Joshimath crisis – whatever the immediate cause may be – is symptomatic of this uncaring attitude. The desire to construct on the pattern of the plains, ignoring traditional practices and wisdom, has played a major role in generating the pressure on the fragile mountains. It has become even more imperative to ensure that the ‘carrying capacity’ is kept in mind while formulating policies, constructing buildings, roads and other infrastructure. If people make the mistake of attributing the Joshimath disaster to a specific project, they may lose focus on the underlying failure that will manifest itself in other ways in the future, if not dealt with now. Hopefully, a balanced approach will be adopted in the future by keeping in mind climate change issues in the larger perspective. That will prevent people from creating situations that trigger more localised calamities.