Clouds gather, they titillate the senses and fill us with expectation, and then scatter. The monsoon is playing havoc with us, and when the skies occasionally open up, the downpour is devastating. We need the ongoing drizzle to permeate the soil and nourish it. It seems as though we are being punished for having been callous and irresponsible about water conservation and harvesting, and for having failed to value water, much the same way in which we disregarded many other warnings from nature. We are beginning to pay the price for not dealing with the problems that are real and will affect us all.
The rampant destruction of the green cover across India has been disastrous, particularly because there has hardly been any replanting of trees to balance out the large-scale deforestation. If we are to create a future that the next generations can look forward to, we must turn our vast, barren wastelands into forests — in the plains as well as in the hills. The roots of trees hold the soil together and stop it from sliding down hilly slopes. The Himalayas have been mutilated over the decades thanks to greedy clients and contractors. They have managed to damage and scar this land in ways that will require enormous effort, dedication and integrity to put right.
Water harvesting units must be part of all plans that involve any kind of building activity. In an area that once held one family of 10, there are now 10 families of at least six people each, housed in highrise apartment buildings. It is obvious that water will be scarce. It is imperative, therefore, to harvest and save water. Why is this so difficult for the administrations of our cities and towns to comprehend? Why are the authorities permitted by the government to run amok, handing out no-objection certificates for building activity for which none of the dos and don’ts have been adhered to?
The prestigious Khan Market in the centre of the capital city houses some of the best and brightest examples of entrepreneurship in a competitive and mobile India. But the municipal authorities have failed to provide the minimum dignity to that public space. Not only does the municipality not allow the stakeholders to upgrade the market’s lanes and bylanes by themselves, it also shows no inclination to do the work itself, when in reality it is actually the municipality’s job. Worse, there is zero accountability. Inspectors stroll about collecting their hafta, policemen chat on their cell phones instead of ensuring the smooth movement of vehicular traffic, and the area continues to fall to bits. All that is required is a week of hard work to pave the entire middle galli and a ban on all two and three wheelers from entering it. Fine those who dump their garbage in the area or encroach on the walkway a hefty sum of money, and people will adhere to the rules like clockwork.
Khan Market must be considered at par with all such high-end markets world-wide. It is a place that could be fashioned as an example of how traditional bazaars and contemporary boutiques can come together to create the ‘Indian experience’. It is a shame that the shops in Khan Market have to pay over-the-top rent for tiny spaces while the road outside the entrance is broken and filthy. It is an insult to India and its great tradition of bazaars, which have housed the extraordinary skills that attracted merchants to this land for centuries. The malls in India cannot compare in terms of experience.
From natural environment to human habitats, India needs to address its problems and devise smart, modern ways to solve them. Outdated rules must be replaced. We too must make our spaces examples of our myriad strengths, which we will lose if we are not careful.