ECO TALK

Smt. Anita Bhatnagar Jain, Vice-Chairperson, Kanpur Development Authority, is an IAS officer (1985 batch). Mrs. Jain was born in Allahabad and received her basic education from Loreto Convent, Lucknow. She has been a meritorious student throughout. Before joining IAS, she was selected for IRS in 1983. As an IAS officer, she has served in various capacities in the state of Uttar Pradesh. She is an environmental enthusiast and her works and achievements bear this out. She has been conferred with “Paryavaran Shiromani” by UP Chief Minister and “Rotary Ratan 2003” by UP Urban Development Minister for her contribution in environmental field. She spoke her mind on various environment and pollution related issues, while talking to Rakesh K Jaiswal, Executive Secretary,Eco-friends.

What do you think about man-nature relationship? Any change in peoples’ perception about the nature and natural resources over the years.

Man is a part of nature. Man was living in perfect harmony with nature. There was no environmental imbalance. But the situation has reversed now. The world is experiencing the ecological strain. This can be attributed to twentieth century thinking. In an average day, an estimated 2.6 lac people are added to the world’s population, dozens of species of plants and animals are prematurely extinguished, approximately 1 lac new motor vehicles take to the road, millions of tons of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere, thousands of hectares of forests are destroyed, millions of tons of top soil are lost and thousands of children die from contaminated drinking water. This conveys the enormity of the environmental challenge today. Homo-sapiens are in collision with the carrying capacities of the nature. Human beings are disturbing the nature. We think that every thing is for our use. Human beings are driving others out of their habitat. We are thinking about our rights only. We used to worship nature. Though it’s done even today but only as a ritual. If we really worship nature, we should not destroy our forests and poison our water-bodies. Our values have deteriorated. Our relationship with nature has changed.

How do you rate Kanpur in terms of environmental quality?

Pretty bad. Forest cover is just 1 %, while it should be 33%. Garbage is littered everywhere, pigs roam freely everywhere and anywhere, air quality is worst and most often in news on national channels. But it’s like any other town of Uttar Pradesh. Sometimes I feel Kanpur is better than other towns. The town is big, the population is large and the problems are proportionate to the size.

How do you prioritize top five problems of Kanpur city? Any plan to solve them?

I rate pigs, garbage, traffic congestion, blaring of horns and encroachment as the top five problems of the city. General apathy, lack of volunteerism and awareness are big handicaps in solving the problems. There is negativism in the society, people do not take inspiration from someone who is doing some good work. Instead encroachers become the role models. KDA has taken several initiatives to tackle each of the aforesaid problems.

Is there any vision for Kanpur, any integrated plan for Kanpur?

A “Vision document” is being prepared by “Price Water House Coopers”. Various needs of the town like housing, water, sewage, transportation etc. are being assessed. The document will be ready in 2-3 months. Kanpur Development Authority has a “Master Plan-2021” which is being implemented by a Task Force under the Chairmanship of Commissioner, Kanpur Division .KDA is the coordinator of the Task Force.

You have launched several environmental campaigns and taken fresh initiatives to ameliorate the environmental condition of Kanpur in your official capacity as DM & VC, KDA. Tell me something about the campaigns and drives? Have you been environmentally active even before?

During my tenure as District Magistrate in various districts, I lead many tree plantation drives involving private participation. “UP Regulation & Control of Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Garbage Act” was drafted by me as Special Secretary, Urban Development. A massive anti-polybag mass awareness campaign was launched by me as DM, Kanpur. 45,000 trees were planted in 2001-02 during my tenure as VC, KDA. Land were allotted to private entrepreneurs for flower cultivation. A self sustained vermi-composting project was started in Kanpur. Rain water harvesting schemes were implemented for the KDA and KNN office buildings. A “Paryavaran Bal Vahini “ (Kids Brigade for Environment) has been formed.

Tell something about Paryavaran Bal Vahini, What is it, its objective?

Paryavaran Bal Vahini-a contingent of 35,000 school children has been formed to sensitise the young minds towards environment. Its difficult to change the grown ups, therefore efforts should be made to prepare the young minds so that they could grow up as environmentally responsible human beings. The Paryavaran Bal Vahini has planted more than 35,000 trees in Kanpur. The Vahini is engaged in various environmental activities.

How do you perceive Ganga? What do you think about Ganga in Kanpur? Would you take a dip in and aachaman (mouthful) of Ganga waters?

Ganga is not only a river, it’s a deity. We call her Ganga Ma. I’m fortunate to be born in a town along Ganga and having stayed along Ganga in Kanpur as DM. Ganga is different from other rivers. We do not have the same respect for Gomti, nor do we ever say “Gomti Ki Jai “. Ganga is a beautiful mythological river. Great civilisations were born in the lap of Ganga.

Ganga flows like a sewage drain for 8 months in Kanpur. It stinks profusely and the stench is nauseous.

I’ve taken a holy dip in the midstream at Sangam and also at Rishikesh but can never imagine doing it in Kanpur. I can not dare take aachman of Gangajal from plains.

What factors are responsible for the pathos of Ganga?

Population explosion, illiteracy, poverty, and resource crunch are mainly responsible for the present pathos of Ganga.

Can Ganga ever be restored to its pristine purity and beauty?

Yes, Ganga can be restored to its pristine purity. Sustained and concerted efforts are required both by the government and the citizens. It will not take more than a decade if serious and honest efforts are made.

Are you satisfied with the efforts being made to restore Ganga?

I’m satisfied that efforts are being made atleast. Earlier there was no plan. A beginning has been made. Now STPs are being planned. New colonies are being planned with sewage management system. KDA plans to construct 3 STPs under the New Master Plan. There is no dearth of money. Things are happening.

What do you think about the prevalent polluting social practices like body dumping etc. How can this be mitigated?

Mostly poor people do this. Electric crematoria should be made functional and popularised. Awareness is required on a massive scale. Administration should be strict and should keep a constant vigil on such activities.

Do religious leaders have some role in restoring Ganga?

Religion unites people. People can do anything for religion. Even illiterate people would listen. Religious leaders should educate and awaken people not to pollute Ganga. Ganga has religious significance and therefore it’s easier to mobilise the masses. Religious leaders should come forward to assume the role of educators.

Your vision for Ganga.

Ganga is more than a river. It should be absolutely clean and beautiful so that people could take a dip and aachman without any hesitation.

What should be done to protect Ganga?

Government should launch as many schemes as possible to make Ganga pollution-free. NGOs and civil society should work with and supplement the efforts of the government.

Any appeal /message to the masses.

Where- ever we are: Its one earth, one life, lets make the difference.

 
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