The Madhya Pradesh Government had surveyed the Bundelkhand regions under “Bunder Diamond Project” through Australian company Rio Tinto in 2000-2005 to find out the probability of diamond reserves. In the survey, Kimberlite rock, whichis the major source (ore) of diamonds, was traced in the Buxwaha forest areas. Presently, Panna of MP is the largest repository of diamond having approx 22 lakh carats. It is said that Buxwaha forest contains 15 times more diamond than Panna. The state government has allotted the mining area to Aditya Birla Group’s Assell Mining and Industries Ltd on lease for 50 years. The mining area of 364 hactares is part of approx 3,000 hactares of Buxwaha protected forest. To excavate the diamonds, nearly 2,15,875 trees of various species will be cut down.
Not only MP, but the whole world is suffering from the pandemic of COVID-19, one of the prime causes of which is disturbance of the ecological balance. The main thrust to counter the pandemic is the production of artificial oxygen in laboratories, which is a consequence of neglecting natural the source of this life supporting gas: trees. Ideally, a country must have at least 33% of its areas covered with forest, but currently it is just 20% in India. The central as well as state governments have separate jumbo-size ministries and departments for this purpose, but in spite of huge expenditure of public money, all have failed to achieve the goal even after 73 years of independence.
Trees and plants are the most important components of the natural environment. They balance the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The gradual rise of temperature on the earth is not a natural disaster but an environmental problem. There are certain proportions of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other gases in the air. Due to steep rise in number of factories and motor vehicles, along with rapid pace of urbanisation, population rise, and indiscriminate felling of forests, there has been a great increase in the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. With rise in population, the consumption of oxygen and production of carbon dioxide has also increased. There has been gradual rise in carbon dioxide also due to conventional sources of energy such as burning of coal, wood, petroleum, cow dung, etc. This gas has the tendency to pass sunlight through it, increasing temperature of the atmosphere and resulting in unwanted geographical and seasonal changes.
The smoke from factories and vehicles contains not only carbon dioxide but harmful carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, lead oxide, carbon particles, heavy hydro-carbon, formaldehyde, and benzene, which pollute the atmosphere and affect the cells in the human lungs. The ozone layer protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Industrial chemicals, particularly chloro-fluro carbons and nitrogen oxides, damage the ozone layer. If these chemicals are not controlled, then in the coming 50 years the ozone layer of the earth will be damaged up to 30%, resulting in rapid increase in atmospheric temperature and danger of cancer to human and animal bodies. A report reveals that air pollution from municipal areas is 45.62%, from bio-medical/chemical products 20%, from various modes of transport 14%, from industry 6.4%, from thermal power stations 6.4%, and from other sources 6.7%.
In various religious literatures, the importance of trees has been highlighted. In Sanskrit literature, trees like Peepal, Neem, Tulsi, Bargad/Vat, Anwala have been worshiped. In Islam, cutting of green trees has been prohibited. The holy scriptures have glorified trees due to their life-giving quality. In Matasya Puran, a tree has been mentioned as equivalent to ten sons (Dash koopsamavapi Dashvapisamohridah, Dash hridsamahputron Dashputrasamodrumah). In Bhagwad Gita (10.26), Krishna glorified the Vat/Bargad tree as “Ashvatthah Sarvavrikshanam”. In Yajur Veda, the tree has been said to be the reflection of Shiva. As Shiva ingested poison and released Amrit, in the same way trees ingest the poison (gases like carbon dioxide) and pump out Amrit in the form of oxygen.
Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment under a Peepal tree, called Bodhi Vriksh, in Bodh Gaya. As per Buddhist scriptures, nature creates as well as preserves life and it is the duty of people to preserve plants and trees, considering them as living beings. All 24 Jain Tirthankars meditated under trees to attain enlightenment. Islamic literature has mentioned: “Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit, he will be rewarded by Allah.” The Bible says: “God made the trees with seed bearing fruits. He enabled us to increase their number by planting the seeds.” All these aspects have been emphasised to keep in mind the importance of trees and plants for conservation of environment.
Forests are not just densely covered areas of trees and plants but are a source of life for humans as well as other biological creatures. They are responsible for rains, they reduce the effect of natural calamities like tsunamis, they prevent soil erosion, minimise air pollution, give shelter to birds and wild animals, provide food and water. They are the source of numerous herbal and medicinal plants. In other words, they are the lifeline for millions of peoples and other living creatures.
The conservation of environment is not possible only through some government initiatives; civil society, too, has to come forward. Otherwise, in the coming days, due to rise of carbon dioxide and damage of ozone layer, the earth would be so much heated that existence of life on earth will be impossible.
The lush green Buxwaha forest is not the only natural resource whose existence is in danger. Hundreds of various such resources have been destroyed recklessly in the name of development, causing disastrous climatic changes. No doubt diamonds and other valuable minerals are essential for a nation’s growth and prosperity, but not at the cost of life-supporting natural resources, the forests and the trees. Once again, the million dollar question arises: what is the urgency of the nation? Diamond or Oxygen?
—The writer is an engineer and academician