The 14-year-old boy, Faaz, was a great lover of nature. He would love the scene of massive, mighty mountains full of magnificent forests from the view of his window. Every time at the magical dawn, he would lift the curtains of his window to breathe in deeply the fresh air which would relax him and remove all his worries and anxieties. He used to love the pleasant smell of soil after rain. He would love walking on the green velvet grass. The sight of a clear bluish sky would bring him calmness while the melodious gushing river with crystal-clear water flowing near his home would soothe his soul. He was in love with the chirping of birds on the tallest tree near his home beneath the shade of which he used to play and do his homework. On Sundays, he used to go for a boat ride across Dal Lake with his family. He also used to watch the beautiful Hanguls jumping happily and roaming freely, a sight which would always bring a smile on his face. This pulchritudinous natural environment surrounding him made him feel his home was in a place that was no less than heaven.
But with passing years, Faaz grew up and so did the population as well as pollution in his area. The environment changed with every single day. Now he cannot even remember the last time when he had enjoyed the view from his window. The air is now too polluted to even open the window, let alone taking deep breaths at dawn and looking out from it, only to witness dark grey smoke rising from the chimney of a newly set up factory near his home. He just leaves a tiny gap of his window open to let at least some light enter his room.
Faaz isn’t able to focus on his studies because of the noise of the nearby factory’s machines and of the street traffic passing outside his window. He hates it when every time he is about to recall the exact formula while solving a physics numerical and suddenly a loud noisy horn goes “Pumm” outside and he forgets it all. His world is now a total chaos, which makes him feel anxious and depressed, daily. Whenever he goes to the garden to escape from depression and feel somewhat calm, the scorching heat of the sun forces him to go back and shelter inside his room. Unfortunately, not even a single tree is left where he could enjoy shade or the melodious chirping sounds of colourful birds. Whenever he wants to quench his thirst he has to use water from a “Pure It” filter rather than from the river, which flows even today but only to be used as the waste bin of his area.
There was a marriage function in Faaz’s neighbourhood recently. The marriage was celebrated with zest. The streets were cleaned and not even a wrapper was left lying. It really looked beautiful. But the very next day, a huge pile of rotten food, water bottles, cans and other trash could be seen on the same street. Some of it was thrown in the river. Dogs, eagles and filthy flies were enjoying their party on this pile and the atmosphere was unbearably filled with foul smell.
It is difficult to pass by that street even now because that pile is still there, left untouched by people. Stray dogs have outnumbered people in the area and children are afraid to walk on the road alone. Faaz himself had a narrow escape when a dog was about to bite him. He is really thankful to the boys standing there at that time who saved him. They somehow managed to kick the dog away, otherwise Faaz would’ve had to take Rabies injections. Every time any friend of his visits Faaz, he has no other choice but listening patiently to the list of complaints his friend makes regarding his filthy locality.
Whenever alone, Faaz still longs for the area he used to live in when he was a child. His lungs crave for the clean and fresh air of dawn. He just wants to hear the chirping of birds and the melodious sound of the river again. He truly wishes to have the pleasant, scenic view from the window of his room. He again wants to ride a boat in the once crystal-clear waters of the Dal. He wants to enjoy the sight of Hanguls again and experience the serenity and calmness they brought to him. But alas! He cannot.
Almighty Allah had gifted us humans with this amazingly beautiful earth and its environment full of numerous resources, so that we could benefit ourselves and also pass them on to our coming generations, in the same way as did our ancestors, but today we’ve become too selfish and greedy to even think of our fellow human beings and share our resources with them, let alone caring for the generations who are yet to come.
We’ve devastated our environment, destroying its green lush forests, which were more precious than any wealth or treasure. Reckless deforestation has left us with barren, denuded land that is at risk of heavy landslides, floods, storms, decreased rainfall, drought and famine. Forests which were natural habitats of wild flora and fauna have all been wiped out. The movements of wild animals have become unpredictable as they have been left homeless. All this has led to a thickening of the Red List of endangered animals who are on the verge of extinction. Now they can often be spotted wandering in the cities, causing fear and panic and even attacking humans. Recently a leopard killed a little four-year-old girl in Budgam, leaving people in anger. Who pushed these wild beasts to come to populated areas? None other than we, humans, who have disturbed the natural balance of the environment.
We’ve polluted all the water bodies, filled them with trash and toxicity, to which our Dal Lake isn’t any exception. Wastes from houseboats, boats of vegetable hawkers, chemicals from hospitals and factories all go inside these water bodies, along with chemical fertilisers from farm lands. These kill the fish and many other water organisms. Diseases like cholera, Hepatitus-B and diarrheal infections are on the rise because of such water pollution. There is already a water crisis and shortage of fresh water at many places of the world, including in capital cities like Beijing and Jakarta.
The air is now completely filled with lethal gases like carbon monoxide, CFCs, methane, dust and smoke particles. More and more people are suffering from asthma, chest infections and other severe pulmonary diseases. The greenhouse effect has increased, causing melting of glaciers and ice caps. Peace and calmness has as if vanished from this earth, to be replaced by noise and chaos all around, which has increased heart diseases, hypertension, and anxiety.
In a nutshell, we humans have crossed all limits and given open invitations to all catastrophes that we are now facing repeatedly, be they diseases, floods, droughts, landslides, storms, or worse. These catastrophes are destroying us and if we won’t mend our ways, then the day isn’t far when all our resources will be exhausted and this will ultimately wipe off the human population in large numbers, because the “environment reacts”!
Before we reach this dangerous level, we need to save our environment. We should not take any resource for granted. As is said, “The lost thing is valued the most.” So we must realise the value of our environment before we lose it and have nothing left but regret, just like Faaz.
The writer is an Honours student of Zoological Science. [email protected]