India facing dilemma of development
India is hosting the 14th Conference of Parties on the Convention to Combat Desertification today onwards. A key focus is on using land sustainably, also the focus of a recent IPCC report. Globally, the learnings are that every square foot of land has to be treated in ways that are ecologically sound for that location and the local people.
Desertification is one of the threats in India as we intensify real estate and plan infrastructure.
We have fractured the Aravallis in multiple locations across Haryana, reducing resilience to desertification. In Mumbai, the Aarey forest is being sacrificed for the metro. In Kerala, massive deforestation over the years had intensified flooding. Meanwhile, in city after city, plantation comprises exotics like decorative ficus, with little ecological value. In other words, our model of development is inviting desertification.
But India isn’t the only country facing this dilemma of development. Central Asia, Africa and much of South Asia struggles with balancing development and conventional economic growth with combatting the outcomes of poor development.
We should, on an emergency basis, rethink and modify our planning. Existing natural attributes — wetlands, forests and natural deserts — should be kept intact at all costs. You can have another metro route, but not another ancient forest. Knowledge about nurturing the soil must be used -which means the small farmer has to be kept on the farm. Soil and land - both have to be seen as sacred cows globally. Otherwise, with intense flooding, heatwaves and droughts, much more of India will cease to be liveable.