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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Can’t turn blind eye to climate change

The inconsistent pattern of the monsoon over the past decade and more demands deeper study and appropriate action.

mumbai Updated: Jun 28, 2019 01:13 IST
Ayaz Memon
Ayaz Memon
The Mumbai monsoon has a sensuous charm all of its own.
The Mumbai monsoon has a sensuous charm all of its own. (HT File)

I divided my cricket World Cup coverage into two parts, returning to India on a personal matter after the match against Pakistan. The second leg begins early next month, hopefully to see Virat Kohli & Co win the coveted trophy on July 14.

When in England for the first leg of the tour, inclement weather was everyone’s bugbear. Persistent rain was playing havoc with the tournament, and the cold weather left me particularly miserable. By the time I boarded the flight from London, however, I was yearning for the Mumbai monsoon. There is no irony in this. Rain in England is a mood wrecker. While it is hardly torrential, it gnaws at your soul.

The Mumbai monsoon has a sensuous charm all of its own. It is joyous and uplifting. We all know and despair of the potholed journeys on the city’s roads, but no true-blue Mumbaiite would give up on the monsoon for this surely.

So I’ve been back for the past week-odd, it’s June-end and the monsoon is still awaited. The met office has intermittently said rains were imminent, but apart from a few dark clouds that hovered over the city briefly, there’s been nothing. This is not to say that the met office here is inept: the technology and processes by which forecasts are made by the Mumbai met is second to none. But these predictions do not come with 100 per cent guarantee. Anywhere.

The met office in England, for instance, forecast almost continuous rain in Manchester for Sunday (June 16) when the marquee match between India and Pakistan was played. Barring a brief drizzle, however, the weather hardly intervened.

As I write this, watching India play the West Indies at Old Trafford, the Mumbai sky is overcast and gloomy. Rains have been predicted over the next 24 hours, so by the time you read this, it will hopefully be pouring.

However, this piece is not about specifics of weather forecasts, right or wrong, rather the changes about the monsoon season that is being experienced in Mumbai and elsewhere and what is being done about this. A three-four-week delay calls for more than just a eyebrow cocked up in curiosity. In fact, the inconsistent pattern of the monsoon over the past decade and more demands deeper study and appropriate action.

As things stand, there is the likelihood of severe water shortages this year: not just in Mumbai, but elsewhere in the state too. By the way, many in Mumbai today forget that large parts of the city have no regular water supply for decades. Shortage of water has been a perennial problem. Buckets and drums are regular investments, whichever part of the city you live in. However, rain-water harvesting, of which so much was tom-tommed for a few years, remains ignored by not just by those who suffer, but most housing societies and townships too. And this remains unenforced by authorities.

I won’t digress further. As mentioned earlier, the main issue is not so much the delayed rains in Mumbai, rather how the changing monsoon patterns are afflicting vast portions of the country. In the context of this piece, how we understand and deal with our ecology and environment — now established as having a bearing on climate change — is critical. But this is not being done with vigour and raising pertinent questions.

For instance, is it essential to sacrifice 54,000 mangroves for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train? Would it matter so much, for argument’s sake, if the journey takes 10-12 minutes longer, if these mangroves can be saved?

As it happens, developed nations hypocritically pass on the onus of keeping the environment clean on developing nations, who in turn often see this as a denial for growth! The issue should be -- for any nation -- is not whether something is pro or anti growth, but whether environmental safeguards have been factored in.

While there are habitual nay-sayers no doubt, it cannot undermine need for projects to be scrutinised stringently. This must not be left only to power-hungry politicians, career bureaucrats, profiteering businessmen etc, but include highly qualified experts who understand the impact this will have on the environment -- and consequently people -- in the global perspective.

Celebrated Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari lists nuclear war, climate change and technological disruption as the three biggest challenges confronting the human race in the 21st century. His thesis has deep merit.

First Published: Jun 28, 2019 01:13 IST

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