Healing Herbs
By Ravhan Mirza 

Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 9.51.12 AM New Year, New You!

Be it a youngster or an oldster, everyone is enthusiastic about the new year as it brings hope for a better tomorrow. It is an occasion to turn a new leaf, make a new beginning, clean the slate and start a new chapter. People, surely make new resolutions and new commitments, broadening the vision and enhancing understanding. It is the time to look back and be reminded of past actions which may or may not need amendments.

In the third week of the New Year, we are still busy receiving and sending New Year greetings and framing our own ‘New Year Resolutions’. Ever optimistic as an average Kashmiri we always hope it to be sunny and brighter tomorrow. We make the resolutions as we are optimistic of the times ahead. Framing the resolutions also depicts our understanding of the times left behind.

Resolutions we make are often personal goals but this year, let us spare some thoughts for the place that we are part of. Let our resolutions at the individual and collective levels, portray the love of the wonderland we live in. For all conscious citizens, it is imperative to listen to the call of nature. We cannot afford to ignore Mother Nature any longer. More importantly, we have to understand that actions of every single individual count. Let us not keep the task confined to government departments and NGO’s. Our part of the world is a peculiar zone highly susceptible to anthropogenic stress with a delicate balance between the biotic and abiotic conditions.

Our glaciers are shrinking by the day as are our forests and wetlands which can lead to a situation that may threaten the lives of millions of people. Figuratively speaking, it seems to be a ticking time bomb whose wires we are tangled in, playing with them not knowing cutting which one would lead to the disaster! We need not to press the panic button because alarming times require thoughtful and effective measures.

The need of the hour is to place ‘nature’ into our resolutions so that we become the preservers of our resources. The resources that we have at hand aren’t ours only. It is a sacred trust we should protect. We should ensure the safekeeping of natural resources for the future generations. Here are a couple of things that we can add to our to-do list of this year.

Watching our Footprints

Footprints here refer to the ‘carbon footprint’. A carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of methane and carbon dioxide emissions of a defined population, system or activity. One may feel that these fancy terms are only meant for big players in the arena and not for ordinary individuals. But we need to appreciate that by being consumers we indirectly as well as directly play our part in making that footprint firmer.

Not just the big decisions we take but the day to day choices we make need to be guided by our care and concern. The routine things like the food we eat, the mode of transport we use, too need our attention. On a community level, conscious efforts are to be made to bring down our carbon footprint and there are a lot of things we can do to make that happen. We can help by producing less waste and not letting the trash and food articles to decompose in landfills. This produces harmful methane emissions that damage the environment.

Echoing the slogans of the smart city, an ordinary citizen expects that better waste management is put in place in the state.  There need to be facilities to which organic waste can be diverted to produce renewable energy. Hope those who assumed office in the municipalities across the state will spare a thought for it.

Lack of waste management here in the valley is also a major issue. Collecting waste door to door is not enough proper follow up is required on part of the government in order to fix the waste not just fill lands with it. Various concepts of waste management such as ‘reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse’ are the most common ways to minimize our personal contribution to climate change.

Obviously, there is lack of such facilities; therefore the creation of such infrastructure would have been the first New Year resolution proposed to the administration but in view of the current crisis in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, establishing peace between warring factions of the newly appointed councilors may be the first resolution of the concerned! The knowledgeable sources inform that the situation in other corporations and committees is no different.

Establishment of a convenient public transport system is also a must as vehicular traffic produces high levels of air pollution. As Srinagar during winters has high pollution levels, in this case, the proper policy of public transit can make a huge difference in a community’s carbon footprint. River transport in the city of several bridges remains a dream. Charity begins at home, the positive approach adopted on a personal level by adhering to eco-friendly practices can make a big difference. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels should be the long term vision of the government.

Worth appreciation that in Kashmir many educational institutions are taking the lead. Kashmir University has initiated a massive plan to go green. Currently, solar panels are being installed in all its departments. It will not only reduce the dependence on electricity generated by hydro-electric projects and will also help in minimizing its carbon footprint. Other departments and institutions should take a cue and follow the pioneers.

What can I do?

Consumption of meat and meat products deserves a separate mention as we in the valley relish mutton dishes. Despite price rise and the stressed economy, Kashmiris as a community would not like to cut out on meat products through the market forces limit their consumption of meat. There has not been any local survey in the valley which would tell us about the awareness of the people about the impact of meat consumption on climate change. Ignorance becomes a real bliss in such a scenario as we enjoy meat preparations unmindful of the need to limit its consumption for medical and environmental reasons. In the given situation, small cuts on an individual level will make a huge difference.

As per an International Consumer Survey which covered 12 nations including US, China, India, Brazil and the EU, there is a link between the awareness about climate change and its impacts and the willingness of the people to change their behavior. Surprisingly acceptance of the human role in climate change was significantly higher in developing countries rather than the developed ones.

Pertinent to note that the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains, and ships combined which is contrary to the popular belief that categorizes transport as the biggest contributor to global warming. It may be difficult to accept but considerable reductions in meat consumption are essential to avoid dangerous climate change. This doesn’t mean that we have to say bye to meat products but, yes, one has to consume meat in sensible amounts. That way we can overcome many issues including that of climate change in the long run.

Make 2019 a better year!

The state has recently uploaded the draft of an environmental policy on the website of its Department of Forest, Ecology, and Environment. The draft puts emphasis on the protection of forests, rivers as well as wetlands while highlighting the need to put an end to air pollution. It needs to be discussed. Lack of thoughtful response to the draft or absence of any meaningful follow-up action by the stakeholders will be a bad omen for the paradise on earth.

Hope all concerned rise to the occasion and make efforts to restore the pristine beauty of Kashmir. Let that be our new year’s resolution number 1.

Margaret Mead, an American author, seems to be right on point as she aptly puts it “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have”. Let’s become environmentally aware and contribute our bit to make 2019 a better year with regard to the protection and preservation of the natural resources, the biodiversity, and the healing herbs valley has been blessed with.

PostScript

One wonders, how come despite ban use of polythene bags continues unabated in Kashmir valley where there is no polythene factory? Do you have any answers?

(A regular columnist, Mirza Ravhan writes on issues related to science and society. Email:mirzaravhan@gmail.com)      

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