Director of Wendy Group of Schools Kanpur P C Mal is also an avid ornithologist. In this interview given to Eco Friends, he takes a deep look at the problem of pollution and suggests ways to tackle it.
How did you associate with nature during your childhood?
My childhood was spent in Kanpur and the latter part of it in Nainital. In Nainital, I used to tour with my father a lot and be out with nature. My love for nature was actually instilled by my mother who used to take us on walks down the lakeside. These nature trails helped me to turn into an ornithologist (watcher of birds) and a lepidopterist (one who collects butterflies). I did a lot studies in these.
People don’t realize that there are 247 species of ducks and geese in the world. So, identification is a very important thing. Even though I did not have biology as a subject, I was very heavily into nature: not just animals and birds but also fish, flowers and tree identification. This was something which was a hobby and it was not school or study associated.
I went into teaching and taught in public schools. I was in Raj Kumar College, Raipur and St Paul’s, Darjeeling, Tashinomia Academy in Gangtok. In Gangtok, I did mountaineering with children and white water rafting. I have been with nature a lot. Even today, I indulge in ornithology. In our school, every student has to take up a hobby and there are 16 students who are studying birds under me.
How long have you been in Kanpur?
After my childhood I was in Kanpur for nine years as the principal director of the Wendy Group of Schools. Then I was away for four and a half years in Punjab. I came back about an year back at the same place.
You have been witnessing the changes taking place in Kanpur over the years. Your impressions.
The population in Kanpur has increased manifold. This is not limited to Kanpur alone. In most Indian cities, the scenario is the same. There is this mess of constructing large number of buildings and so forests are cut down and agriculture lands are becoming less.
Thirty years back Kanpur had lot of green places. Places like Medical College were outlying areas which now are most congested. Because of human infringement, nature has suffered. There are strict rules to create green spaces in Chandigarh but nothing of the sort in Kanpur. Also, roads here are narrow but vehicles are multiplying. Air pollution is increasing too.
How has Ganga changed in the last three decades?
It was very much less polluted when I was a child. There were of course effluents from the tanneries which were going into the river. They must have had some kind of impact then. But it was not to the extent as it is happening now. Tanneries were not in such large numbers in those days as well as they weren’t so sophisticated. Nowadays, tanneries are using all kinds of hazardous chemicals which are finding their way into Ganga. I have some friends who are with the leather-making units and they do not treat the tannery waste during the monsoon seasons thinking that the water flow will shield their illegal action.
All the pollution in Kanpur lands up in the Ganga today. It has lost its self-purifuication power. As traditionally believed, the Ganga can not get rid of all your dirt. Today, the river is not flowing as it used to. We are putting up dams at many places.
Do you feel certain kind of responsibility to tackle the pollution problem in Kanpur?
Yes, I do. I feel the responsibility to educate the children. We need to put in a lot more effort and we require large sums of money which has to be utilized properly. True dedication to check pollution is needed. You can not reduce pollution but we can ensure that the waste generated by them is not dumped into the Ganga. It is not only the tannery waste which is polluting the Ganga but also the domestic waste.
What role should the schools play?
Well, the schools have a big role to play in educating the children. We can probably utilize the children to gather opinion and pressurize the administration into doing things because that is where the money actually comes from. Now, I am not saying that over bridges are not the need of the hour but there are also equally important things such as a proper sewage system and a proper water intake system.
You and I are talking about pollution because we have a modicum of education. But how many of Indians are educated? So it’s the same old vicious circle: Large population means lack of education means poverty. We are stuck in this chakravyu (vicious circle). Pollution can be checked when we impart education at every level but how do you educate a person who does not have enough to eat! They say the rich are too rich to be moral and the poor too poor to be moral.
How would you go about containing pollution in Kanpur if you are given the power to take decisions? Say, if you become the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
We have to bring in regulations on the aspects of ownership of cars and vehicles, broaden roads and ensure that the pollution is very low. If a person drives a polluted vehicle, he should be charged with a fine. And the money thus generated should be used in anti-pollution activities.
The sewage system will have to be completely resettled. The water intake system has to be improved. The non-pollution clauses which have been so effectively put in by the judiciary has to be completely adhered to. These are the things I say I would like to do. But I do not whether I would be able to do these things because I would have to look at my popularity levels. Also, chief ministers here have one or two years lease of life. If I have a lease of life of 10 years, may be I would be able to implement my ideas. If I become a politician I would have to work it out to gain some advantage out of whatever I do. If I am doing some good work I would like to have right kind of advertisement for it which reflects that the work is beneficial to the people and can garner votes for me. Eco Friends and other organizations should try to promote Ganga depollution as a politically correct move.
What we need is a proper set up next to the Ganges which is going to monitor all the content at regular intervals, measure the pollution in the river and so on.
What are your views about the concept of Ganga Ambassadors which Eco Friends is propagating?
It is a good concept because it is spreading the message of Ganga pollution far and wide. If a student is aware himself, he will pass on the awareness to others. But the question is are we using them enough for them to go around and talking to people about the pollution aspects? Is it such a strong thing that they discuss it amongst themselves? Probably they do not.
What do you think the children can do?
If you are expecting the children to do any wonder, that I think is being more than a little unrealistic. All you can do is spread the awareness through the children. Perhaps, you can bring to the notice of the authorities that the children are a potent force of tomorrow and that they are aware of the pollution problems. We can use the children as a pressure point for the administration and the politicians. We have to make our own local corporaters, MLAs and politicians aware about the Ganga pollution and bring it to them in such a manner that there is some political benefit to them. Political benefit to cleaning up the Ganga, that’s what we should think about. And if that can be passed on, it can become a movement.
Eco Talk Home