Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ecology: Vanishing Hills

Much has been said about the need to conserve our forests (see: Trees are vital). The campaign to keep the earth green seems to be getting the message across to millions of people. But there is another vital area of ecology that is, unfortunately, not receiving the attention that it deserves.

I am talking about the hills. All over India, hills are being flattened for for building construction, cutting stones, for obtaining earth for filling low or water logged areas and so on. Laws to prevent this may or may not exist but the indiscriminate mining carries on nevertheless. Nobody seems to bother except some activists.

What is the damage if the hills are flattened? Water covers about 70% of the Earth. I saw an estimate that water level would rise by more than 8000 feet (about 2500m) if the earth surface were evened out. That means there would not be any land-sea ratio. The planet would be a mass covered by water. That of course is an unlikely eventuality.

But there are several other adverse impacts of leveling the hills. The surface area of the earth decreases when a hill is flattened. The trees and plants (some of them medicinal) and life forms that thrived there disappear. I think all the major rivers of the world originate from and are sustained by the mountains. The hills attract rains. They provide water to more than half the world’s population. Terrains like laterite formations retain water. If we do not protect the hills, the result would be acute water problems.

There could be an argument that habitats are among the basic requirements of humanity and that construction activities provide employment to many people. True. But can’t we build without flattening the hills? Contour architecture, I think, is the answer. Two examples of this I can immediately recall are the residential area of the HMT complex near Cochin, and the Kovalam Resort near Trivandrum.

Certainly, our architects are capable of coming out with eco-friendly designs.


Also see: Komana Kadu.

Cross posted to:

Articles By Abraham Tharakan

EARTH SAVE - Abraham Tharakan's Blog


kallu said...

The environment conscious keep writing and raising awareness.
But the builders and developers don't seem to be reading?
They are looking after their own lives and bank balances. As are the people who are investing with them.
Are writers a marginalised community talking to themselves?

Ashvin said...

Dear Mr. Tharakan, not many people know that the original plans for Kovalam ITDC resort was for a typical matchbox structure on the beach - the usual PWD monstrosity that independent India has managed to develop into a kind of ghastly art form. When HH of Kashmir Dr.Karan Singh (Union Tourism Minister at the time) came for the unveiling of the foundation stone, he took one look at the model (or drawings ?) and promptly scrapped the idea. Charles Correa was then sent on a worldwide junket to see various other international resorts and came up with the plans for a new resort and one can see the result. I do not remember where I heard this, (probably from HH himself), so cannot really certify as to the authenticity of these statements but have no reason to disbelieve them either.

Abraham Tharakan said...

kallu, sorry I missed your comment earlier.

In my opinion, whether the writers are marginalized or not, they have to keep talking. May be somewhere, sometime, somebody would listen.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Ashvin, I always used to feel that there should be some law against the concrete monstrosities created by the PWD and others. The country has so many beautiful architectural styles which can inspire aesthetic structures.

We have to be thankful Dr. Karan Singh for ITDC Kovalam.