Kerala is facing one of the worst droughts in its history due to the failure of both the South-West and North-East monsoons. Indu Lekshmi, a writer based in Thiruvananthapuram, laments over the unbridled exploitation of natural resources in and around Thriuvananthapuram amidst the worries over drought. It will not be a mass killing where we can hear the news of a million shot down instantly. It will be a slow and programmed killing which would eventually wipe out many millions before we even realize. I am talking about the trees of Kerala. The one thing which I have always been proud about Kerala is the richness of greenery in the state.
From the perfume and texture of the mud and the freshness of breeze flying past to the background music of the crows and squirrels, there is some magic which only Kerala can claim. When my eyes first caught the view from the top floor of Bhavani building in Technopark in 2005 when I joined my IT career, I felt I was standing at the brim of a paradise with Western Ghats guarding the coasts on one side, the Arabian Sea on the other side and just green everywhere else. But now after almost eleven years when I take a look at the very same picture I am left with just shock and disbelief.
Trivandrum for sure is changing. New malls, new roads and new traffic block knots are all getting ready to change the face of that once green and chaste city. Apartments are blooming at every nook and corner of the city and we are blissfully aware that many of these apartments are drawing underground water for their construction. Until the Water Authority connection is obtained, the dwellers of these apartments too use underground water. Nature comes for fee and we are yet to be charged for the air and water we consume. So they all have a justification to use the resources which Nature offers. It is like a giant putting a straw into the earth and finishing off all the underground water when hundreds of residents use the same source of water for their day- to-day needs. One or two bore wells in a fifty cent of land or even lesser space is serving the water needs of tens and hundreds of apartments.
Kerala is a land of water bodies and yet from the year 2009 summers have turned hotter than ever. Year after year we are teaching ourselves to get accustomed to this heat and to find solace in air conditioners. Air conditioners have started following us from our rooms to cars making us less aware of the reality outside our windows. The canopy of the green that gave us shade in our roads is now a memory. The sight of their flowers adoring our rides too is now a distant memory. The attitude of city dwellers too surprise me when I see them advocating to get their neighbor’s tree too cut down since they don’t want to have dry leaves on their lawn. To grow a tree among the mesh of concrete is such a challenge now because people are worried if their walls would crack with the roots of these trees. They worry if the trees would fall upon their houses during rains. They curse the pigeons and crows who build their nests upon their terraces. The only relief is the museum – Vellayambalam- Kowdiar roads which are still maintaining their trees. These are the only trees in the city now and the only shaded roads in the city and the only roads which we can hope to have their trees. Trivandrum is changing for sure! But I hope those changes wouldn’t steal the soul of the city. If it does none of us would even have the right to hang our heads in shame.