How eco-friendly are we?

It is a question that crops up in our minds everyday.

Not only on account of alarming reports frequently issued on the imbalance caused to the ecosystem worldwide due to overexploitation of resources and destruction of natural surroundings. Right now in our corner of the world under the tropical sun, the unbearable heat is a constant reminder that climate change is a reality.

Water water everywhere and yet… No dead Albatross hanging around our neck. Better chase away an apocalyptic vision of what the future holds in store for generations to come. We are no Ancient Mariners expiating a curse but a wildcat capitalist system supported by aggressive publicity on billboards by the roadside, across the media in newspapers, magazines, on the radio and TV as well as on the Internet constantly inviting us to try and buy all sorts of stuff that we do not need. It has spawned a shopping addiction, or rather an enslavement that has turned brave citizens into mindless consumers. The bowels of Mother Earth have been dug unrelentlessly to satisfy the never-ending appetite of industrialists.

How hot it is!, a complaint heard on a daily basis. Carbon dioxide emissions from factory chimney stacks in the most industrialized countries of the world are the cause of ice-cap melting, rising sea levels, climate change blowing hot and cold across the globe, and so on. We know about the whole cycle. We should tell the world that what Blue Gold scarcity experts are warning about is nothing new to us. We have lived with restricted distribution of water for decades. The great thing called ‘developma’ in the hotel industry with unlimited number of permits delivered to local barons and foreign companies, now with the Chinese eyeing Roches Noires for their own hotel, needs their daily non-stop supply of water for their customers. IRS, RES, real estate projects grabbing lands in every nook and cranny of the island with the approval of the authorities, also gulp down their own share of water for the foreign nationals who have decided that they cannot settle elsewhere than in tiny Mauritius. Those you elect every five years do not give a damn to what you think of their development policy.

Bus companies across the country have no qualms about demanding ticket fare hikes now and then, but do not intend to offer eco-friendly buses to the public. Who cares for the public, anyway? They get their daily share of fumes released from exhaust pipes, not to mention the noise pollution caused by the drone of low quality engines.

Car-pooling is still too remote a concept to be fully integrated in local habits. Fortunately though, most people travel by bus. Just as more than a decade ago we were warned that rice would become more expensive to cultivate, today we are made to understand that oil wells will dry up in the near future. Unless renewable sources are fully developed to replace kerosene in planes, for instance, there is cause for serious concern. In all likelihood, should most of us have to say bye-bye to air travel in a decade or so? What will be the stakes for the tourism industry?

Sweden has geared its energy policy towards the aim of being an oil-free economy by 2030. Currently, its use of renewable sources is five times higher than the average country in the European Union. In comparison, we are still lagging far behind. A clear, viable project has not been outlined yet.

More than a decade ago an anti-plastic campaign was carried out to sensitize the public

on the necessity of adopting an environment-friendly policy. Since then, the objective of the green campaign has sunk into oblivion, and loads of plastic are being thoughtlessly used around everywhere.

How can most of us contribute to be green? Water is already being doled out sparingly. Quite a number of people are unaware of the necessity of not letting water flow endlessly while washing dishes, for instance. Similarly, a lot of water is wasted in cleaning and scouring household stuff. Fortunately over here, most of us have not been used to open tap water all the time while we take a shower or brush our teeth compared to the shocking habit of people living in rich countries.

The widespread use of solar panels for heating water in homes is another positive point.

Some places in India have replaced electricity with solar energy not only for light but also for cooking thousands of meals everyday. Plastic bags are non-existent in some supermarkets.

No significant effort has been expended locally to make full use of solar energy. Air-conditioning is widely used in homes during summer season. It is both energy consuming and polluting. It would be wiser to set up a panel of architects to provide proper counselling to the public on matters pertaining to design, shape, size, openings, and height of ceilings in house-building so as to provide adequate ventilation and sunlight, and avoid excessive use of electricity.

How Port Louis can be revamped and transformed into a green city requires a Herculean project no one has come up with so far. Insufficient empty space to cultivate trees to absorb carbon dioxide and rain water is a major handicap at present. Eco-friendly buildings seem a too far-fetched project to materialize in a near future.

If anything, progress in the field of energy consumption and protection of the environment at domestic and individual level requires an awareness campaign in which the national television may be instrumental in reaching a wider public. Needless to say strong determination and ambition should emerge at state level to face energy needs and brace up for the future as efficiently as we can.

 


* Published in print edition on 7 March 2014

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