ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME

November 26, 2021

Three years ago, I did tree plantations, involving communities with the idea of social sculpture. It was conceived after I stumbled upon a group of elderly people singing devotional songs beneath a tree. I joined them and listened to their conversation that ranged from spiritual, philosophical to the humdrum of the everyday. I frequently started coming here and converged with them on a traditional platform under a tree. One day I expressed my wish to plant trees in a vacant plot to create a greener neighborhood for todays and future inhabitants. I coordinated with the local authorities and organized a tree plantation in 2018. The idea was to synchronize this tree in a landscape and grow it as a community park. The elderlies were nurturing the newly planted trees as part of their daily rituals. To humanize open space, I asked people to send their poetry, message, or dedications to their loved or lost ones. Individuals donated the funds for creating the tree-scapes. The tree guards included environmental messages, poems, and dedication to the loved or lost ones where – in lieu of where one might commonly find the advertising plaque of corporates. It is both community design process, conservation, and advocacy within the context of art. This tree plantation was a call for long-term thinking solutions and my research through concept testing and analyzing. Beyond theoretical models and their protocols, I was taking a pragmatic approach based on grounded practices with substantial interdisciplinary thinking and creative approaches in understanding the physical context as well as intangible aspects. Landscape architecture requires a synthesis of knowledge from the natural sciences, and the social sciences, environmental psychology, or sociology to the humanities. Yet it is taken lightly by society as well as by architects which then fails in making informed choices.We need evidence-based guidelines, a new paradigm, and rigorous effort to establish this kind of experiential design process which is of paramount relevance in landscape architecture. 

Recently I went to this place and saw concrete pillars instead of trees. All the trees were uprooted to put gates that will control access. They needlessly increased the steps on a traditionally raised platform making it hard for old people to climb up. This is hurting them instead of caring. A big tree that gives shade is now under stress from the heat caused by the disproportionate hardscape. You can no more lie down on the grass. This tree is commonly known as “Khari’ Scientific name (Celtis Celtis australis) “holds great significance in the local folklore. There is a trend of laying concrete platforms beneath the big trees without future implications on the root structures. Covering this zone with concrete harms not only the tree species itself but also the ecosystem that it supports.   While I was photographing this tree, I heard one of the elderly calling my name. I have rejoiced in the spiritual conversations and his lucid expressions. We reminisced those moments beneath the tree, perhaps took a brief stroll into the past, revisiting those fortunate hours that are getting rarer in today’s society.  I recorded his voice containing both insights as well discontent towards the destructive development. I visited the place the next day with tender nostalgia and photographed whoever I met underneath the same tree. A pandemic-enforced hiatus also barricaded daily lives, especially the senior citizens stayed home. I inquired about other elderlies and came to know that some of them are no more in this world.  In each we miss the personal history and poetry, once it’s gone it’s gone. The natural and social history of the place is erased. Their beloved place isn’t theirs anymore as well as the importance of nature play in the lives of children is jeopardized. This crime has irrevocably changed the physical, ecological, and atmospheric landscapes and reduced the potential. The discrete structures imposed with a blind spot to biodiversity have severely fragmented the landscape. Public projects are franticly associated with corruption to the extent of environmental destruction. The inflated amount of 7 crore rs i.e. around 600000 US $ spent on this alleged community park project is a result of organized corruption. The authority structures ignore and attempt to disempower individuals. That’s why my ideas that question the modes of development are excluded in favor of expensive contracts. Most consultancies with awful records blow-outs the cost by overloading the materials. This negligence comes at a significant cost to taxpayers. Non-financial costs include the loss of intangible heritage, biodiversity, and social prosperity. We haven’t realized the worth of parks beyond financial calculation.

All before-mentioned crime groups make out ways for through the loopholes and abuse of power.   Seeing the destruction first-hand makes me more determined. I am documenting the happenings, thought processes discourse, and research to contain memories and their importance in future recollection. I do not think that criticism is enough to counter this tendency. We have roles and responsibilities to make a difference. It means changing attitudes and cultivating empathic action for society to progress both materially and spiritually. I initiated a talk show at the café in the same locality and invited public officials and locals to increase visibility and attention. Specific legislation and monitoring mechanism to investigate environmental criminality are feeble. And there is no urgent community response to the devastating loss fuelled by organized environmental crime. The exploitation and patterns of the environmental crime leave the communities vulnerable in the face of adversities. We have normalized environmental crime and related corruption that converge with other crimes and escape easily.  We despair but we accept it however immoral and perilous these may be. Progressive ideas for deeply connected public realms, urban mobility are obstructed by static thinking. But public space as such can be anything if we re-imagine. Even when you encounter public officials with good intent and the right priorities they seem to have their hands tied due to systematic barriers. The political instability and the monopolies abandon the conception of conservation initiatives with no conscience. Such mindsets are difficult to change.

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