The per capita carbon footprint of an average Indian is amongst the lowest in the world. It is, therefore, ironical that at the environment meet at Paris, nations that have contributed most towards the disastrous climate changes in the world, negotiated hard to prove how India should rein in her development, while Chennai suffered the brunt of calamity. Being a topographically ill-planned city complicated the situation, causing untold suffering. Were it not for the doughty spirit of the people and nationwide support, the tragedy would have been on a far larger scale. However, we must not only learn to respond to such calamities, but also take appropriate action to prevent them.
The very process of global warming has led to southern India receiving excessive rain. This is bound to happen with the ocean on both sides. If this global warming process is not reversed in the next three-four years, the volume of rain will increase considerably, to the point where rain will be destructive for agriculture. Another thing is, as we have seen, a lot of people who did not design their civil constructions for this kind of water, are going to face the consequences.
So, initially what looks like a benefit will cause desertification, a process which happens much more rapidly with excessive rain than no rain. If too much rain happens where there is no green cover, land will be leached and top soil will be taken off. It becomes uncultivable and slowly becomes arid, and then a desert will form over a period of time, making the land completely useless. You won’t be able to grow anything except weeds.
To reverse the process, apart from curtailing carbon emissions, it is also very important that tropical and equatorial regions find sufficient green cover. Planting trees in these areas will prevent loss of fertile soil and can help offset global warming.
It is extremely important that along with the economic upsurge, we also take care of ecological balance in the country. The incentive to cut a tree has gone up in a big way. Maybe 10 years ago if you cut a tree you earned only Rs 500 rupees but today if you cut a tree you earn Rs 5,000. So it's imperative that we as a society create the necessary incentives to plant a tree. We may be unable to change government policies and international situations, but if we are willing, we can change our lifestyles. Every human being can definitely plant one tree. This much action everybody can take. I don’t think there is any problem about that.
Above all, ecological damage is essentially caused by human overpopulation. Right now, the whole effort of environmental preservation has been in terms of capping human aspirations: produce less smoke or burn less fuel. But this is a futile effort. You cannot stop developing countries of the world from trying to meet their economic aspirations at the expense of the environment. The only thing that you can do is to cap human populations. The UN projections say that by 2050 we will be 9.5 billion people. If that happens, it doesn't matter what trees you plant, what policies you make, what technologies you bring; it will be a complete disaster. So all nations, communities and human beings as a whole must aim to lower human populations. Why can't we come together and project ‘By 2050 we’ll be 3.5 billion’?
Why are we not taking corrective action? Either we control our population consciously or it’ll get controlled in a cruel manner by nature. That’s all that will happen. The planet is not in peril, it’s only human life which is in peril. It is only human life that we have to rejig, not the planet.