Alexandre Moniz Barbosa
The weather is living up to its reputation of being unpredictable. Last month the Indian Meteorological Department had forecast that the monsoon would set in early this season. It was expected to set in over Goa two or three days before its normal date of June 5, but though the monsoon winds did reach Kerala and then Karnataka a little ahead of the usual date, the advance to Goa has not yet occurred and as you read this it is already June 5. In effect, the monsoon that was expected – forecast actually based on scientific data and calculations – to have an early arrival could well be delayed. There is no explanation yet for why the monsoon has not advanced beyond Karwar into Goa but this World Environment Day that conveniently falls on a Sunday this year, could be better utilised to pause and consider whether, among other aspects of the environment, the varying weather patterns being experienced are in keeping with the normal for the region.
At the time of writing this, the sun is shining brightly, the sky is blue with wisps of white clouds floating in the firmament above. Outside the office the day is bright, with none of the foreboding grey clouds that are normally associated with the pre-monsoon showers. The monsoon clouds aren’t visible on the horizon the crescent moon very visible in the night sky, but unpredictable as the weather is, it could all change even as this column gets printed and read, just a few hours from the time of writing. It is the monsoon season, so anything can be expected.
In the light of this weather that we have been experiencing in Goa over the last couple of years with rising temperatures in the summers and plentiful or sparse rains, there can be no better wakeup call this World Environment Day, than the words you see on the website worldenvironmentday.global that says, ‘In the universe are billions of galaxies, in our galaxy are billions of planets, but there is Only One Earth’. The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is ‘Only One Earth’ and if everybody keeps this in mind, then the message of this World Environment Day – ‘We have only one Earth, let us take care of it’ – would serve to keep Goa safe. The question is how many people are actually willing to make that small effort to slow down the changes.
Goa cannot ignore the alterations in the weather patterns. The State Action Plan for Climate Change that Herald had reported on in detail two months ago, foresees that the changes in the climate could result in the ‘loss of khazan lands which may lead to migration of khazan land owners and their families; inundation of several portions of talukas of Salcete, Bardez, and Tiswadi causing people to evacuate these areas’. It goes further to state that in the long term these scenarios could lead to ‘permanent migration of population within Goa to areas with higher altitudes’. This is quite a serious visualisation of how climate change can affect Goa and it is not the only one that paints this alarming picture. NASA has also predicted that coastal areas of Goa could submerge in the years ahead due to a rise in the water levels. This can, however, be slowed down or reversed if the warnings are heeded and the mitigation measures established.
One aspect that requires attention is the use of fossil fuels. As per available data, fossil fuels power 95 per cent of the world’s transport, with globally, cities accounting for 60 to 80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions that are adding to climate change. How does one reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and transition to renewable fuels?
Here are some of the mitigation measures that the Action Plan for Goa has listed in the transportation sector: an electric mobility policy be developed, provisions be made for non-motorised transportation in urban areas to decongest and reduce GHG emissions, development of a wholistic policy for low emission sustainable transport system, identify alternate mode of fuel transportation in mining areas, explore the possibility of using CNG instead of petrol and diesel, solar power vessels for inland water ways, convert existing vessels to CNG vessels, provide interconnected public and non-motorised system for point to point connectivity.
While Goa is still at the planning and proposal stage of mitigation measures, other countries have moved ahead in initiating reforms in their transport sectors and the State could well learn from them. An example that has been given is of the Swedish capital Stockholm, where around 8 lakh people use the public transport daily and where since 2017 trains and buses have been running entirely on renewable energy. Proffering this example, the worldenvironmentday.global website says that this is ‘proof that cities can thrive upon transitioning to renewable energy sources’.
This World Environment Day, that calls on the people to take care of the Earth – save it in reality – Goa can show the rest of the country that it can course correct and make a difference to the planet, by involving the people, especially the youth and children. For an example of how it can be done, we go to Sweden again, where a high school teacher who saw that children were rarely invited to conversations on how to build a sustainable world founded a non-profit organisation to create a platform for students and young people to engage with politicians and decision-makers on environmental issues. Besides coaching the youngsters this organisation it equips classrooms with tools to educate students on environmental issues and allow them to voice their vision for a sustainable future. The future belongs to today’s children, they need to have a say about it, why not a similar system in Goa?
Observing World Environment Day remains meaningless unless there are tangible outcomes. Copious amounts will be written, still more will be said, and social media will throw up even more memes and comments. The efforts have to go beyond that and it can only come from the governments. The people will be partners, but taking the measures forward has to come from positions of authority.
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa is Editor, Herald. He tweets at @monizbarbosa