Can CSR turn into CNR (Corporate Nature Responsibility) in the aftermath of Nepal Earthquake

Civilians and security forces at rescue operation in Nepal just after earthquake

In the aftermath of Nepal earthquake and the subsequent destruction & devastation that followed, corporate social responsibility assumes greater importance than ever before.  First and foremost thought that comes to mind to anyone would be the contribution in the form of relief and rescue. No, I’m not talking about it.  I’m talking about the prevention of such disasters and the role that corporate could play in it by becoming responsible and friendly with Nature.  One may wonder where the connection between a natural calamity and corporate social responsibility is.  Last week I was watching a television channel interviewing a survivor of the Nepal earthquake who returned safely to Bangalore.  When he was asked what he would like to send out as a message to the viewers, he said stop cutting trees and save earth, take care of environment.  What a responsible statement from a citizen who survived a tragedy.

Today, in the name of development our cities are choked with concrete buildings, congested roads and heavy vehicular traffic leaving very little space for ecological balance.  Where’s the greenery which used to be there 25 years ago, where are those birds especially the sparrows which used to throng the backyards of our homes?.

According to Mr. Yellappa Reddy, Noted Environmentalist and former Secretary for Ecology & Environment, Govt of Karnataka “ Himalayan Ghats, Western Ghats and Aravali are highly fragile ecological areas when disturbed can cause multiple adverse impact on the Environment.   Infact he goes on to reiterate that Oak trees in the Himalayan region form excellent watershed areas. It creates the peak mass which plays a very important role in trapping the rain water which will seep into the inner layers of the Earth and also helps formation of primary streams, secondary streams and  more importantly the rivers such as Ganges, Bramhaputra etc.  “He opines that if dams, roads and hydro electric projects are constructed by disturbing this bio mass, it can lead to unimaginable consequences.  He further narrates with lot of emotion that the roots of this bio mass in the Himalayan region spreads for kilometers altogether.  “They are like arteries and veins in our body which runs from head to toe.    Building dams, roads etc cuts of these kilometers of the oxygen supplying veins of trees which causes a lot of damage”.   Thus he provides a clue to the cause of earthquake in Nepal.

All this does not mean that you don’t need development.  Mr. Reddy says “It takes a few months to manufacture an aircraft or a few hours to assemble a car but to grow a tree with 1 ft of thickness it takes 30 years but to cut the same tree it takes no time.  He remembers the late renowned space scientist and former chairman of ISRO  Mr. Satish Dhawan who once during  the planning stage of satellite  launch when he was shown the plan that included cutting 50 trees,  he instructed his scientists to rework the plan so that those 50 trees could be saved.  He narrates this to highlight the responsibilities with which people who occupy the decision making position need to act towards nature.
According to Mr. Reddy as part of CSR initiatives, corporate should have ecological ethics.  Before they undertake any project that can affect the environment, they need to undertake an ecological impact assessment.  “Mother Earth is a gift bestowed upon us by God.  Plants and animals have equal right to live in balance like human beings and we humans do not have right to disturb or destroy at”.  He goes on to advise that please take up development which does minimum damage to nature.  Each human being everyday needs about 26000 litres of oxygen.  Can an AC car costing 1cr provide it?

Normally, how many people do you see riding on two wheelers or in a car.  Mostly if not all the time, You see one person each on a bike and a car because of lack of proper transport facilities.  This reminds us of Singapore where you get a license to own a car only when you prove your necessity.  On an average, an estimated 5000 new cars come on road every month in a city like Bangalore alone.  Similarly two wheelers, autos, buses etc.  (As per statistics from the Karnataka transport department, nearly 39,000 new vehicles consisting of 7000 cars, 28000 two wheelers and 4000 Transport vehicles got added on to the road in Bangalore city in the month of Feb 2015 alone)  This is besides the old vehicles that are plying even after their life span.  This leads to a simple question as to how much mining needs to be done to procure the metal required to manufacture them not only for a city like Bangalore but for the entire country and how a proper planning could help sustainable development.
The damage being done to nature is manifold especially in cities like Bangalore. First and foremost is cutting of trees, ineffective Garbage collection and disposal, usage of plastic for domestic purposes and most importantly diverting sewerage water and industrial waste to rivers, lakes and ponds and encroachment of lake bed areas for construction purposes.

Although some of the initiatives such as banning polythene bags by Bangalore Municipality and garbage treatment plants are a good move, it needs more involvement by the citizens themselves in conscious thinking and acting in a responsible way.  For Eg they can separate the solid and liquid garbage at the time of disposal itself making it easier for garbage collectors to handle it.  Imagine how much the poor garbage collector will be inhaling the foul smell of tones of garbage.  Similarly nowadays when we go to hotels and order for parcels, a new trend has developed in packing, a thick plastic sheet which is otherwise called butter sheet has replaced the age old plantain leaves.  Plantain leaves are bio degradable, whereas plastic is not. The reason offered by them for this replacement is that they don’t have time to handle it and the new way is very convenient.  Thankfully some well known hotels and restaurants are still using plantain leaves to serve and parcel food items in Bangalore. 

All the said problems related to nature, especially the industrial toxic wastage disposal that we are facing are due to lack of adherence to the basic Ecological Ethics. As Mr. Yellappa Reddy says You need a soul to do it and why not if it is possible and within your reach.

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