Of elections, ecology and environment
With many a channel focussing on the hazards of environmental pollution, it is becoming a hot political issue in the Punjab Assembly poll
Randeep Wadehra 

Randeep WadehraHas the internet become an important factor in the Punjab Assembly elections? Going by Zee Khabran, it would appear so. On January 8, its bulletin showed how various Punjab Congress bigwigs are reaching out to voters via the internet. But apart from beaming shots of Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Capt Amarinder Singh etc, it did not tell us how the internet has made a difference in current poll campaigns of many candidates. The programme could have thrown some light on the number of internet users in Punjab, who visited the blogs and Facebook pages of different politicos. By the way, what is the extent of penetration of connected computers in Punjab’s rural and semi-urban areas?

When a channel takes up an issue that is not really hot (in view of the poll politics), you sit up and take notice. And one wonders whether this is a case of thinking out of the box, bored with all those hot air balloons floating on Punjab’s political firmament or is it a genuine concern for an issue that affects us all.

On January 7, Masle on PTC took a look at environmental problems being faced by Punjab. There were three prominent environmentalists and one university don facing the anchor. Although they were well versed with the problem, they, understandably, had nothing new to say — the general theme being that the government should have taken steps to identify and alleviate the menace; the contesting political parties should give prominence to environment in their election campaigns. But, perhaps, the problem lies as much with the attitude of political parties as with the voters, at large, who seldom take their representatives to task over environmental issues.

It is natural to expect the environment to become a hot political issue in view of the approaching elections
It is natural to expect the environment to become a hot political issue in view of the approaching elections Photo: Himanshu Mahajan

Meanwhile, the menace grows. Apart from after-effects like underweight babies, premature ageing etc, pollution has taken debilitating and lethal dimensions with cases of cancer, arthritis etc spreading even among youngsters in different parts of the state. So, it is natural to expect environment to become a hot political issue in view of the approaching elections.

However, despite appeals made by eco-warriors like Balbir Singh Seechewal and others, environment remains, more or less, an afterthought or, at best, a footnote in manifestos of various political parties. Another panellist on the show, Umendra Dutt, has been campaigning for a green agenda for sustainable Punjab. He has been repeatedly appealing to the state government to come out with a vision statement on the issue but in vain. Nevertheless, it is good to see Masle take up this important issue for discussion.

Incidentally, DD Punjabi has the longest running show on environment, which has acquired the traits of a campaign of sorts, even if quite a few of its episodes are repeated. On January 9, it telecast a documentary on water pollution and conservation, with reference to Punjab. It showed how many traditional sources of water like ponds and lakes have dried up in rural areas; how the march of civilisation has led to the depletion of underground water sources and pollution of surface water sources like rivers and canals.

The documentary’s message was clear: Resurrect the traditional methods of water conservation like village ponds or chhappars and stop the mass-scale pollution of rivers, or else a time will come, when this vital life source will vanish, leading to unimaginable tragedy. As an interviewee said on the show: Technology can manufacture every type of consumables but there is no way it can manufacture air and water. So, it is time to heed the writing on the wall.