Bhopal is located in the central part of India, and is just north of the upper limit of the Vindhya mountain ranges. Located on the Malwa plateau, it is higher than the north Indian plains and the land rises towards the Vindhya Range to the south. The city has uneven elevation and has small hills within its boundaries. The prominent hills in Bhopal are Idgah hills and Shyamala hills in the northern region, Katara hills in southern region.

City is also known as City of Lakes, as it has several man-made lakes created through the centuries. The Upper Lake (also known as Bada Talab), created in 11th century AD, and Lower Lake (also known as Chhota Talab), created in the late 18th century AD, are by far the most important. The Upper Lake is a fresh water lake, has special significance since it is also support the water supply of the city. These lakes are of immense importance since they are inseparably linked with the socio-economic and cultural aspects of the people of Bhopal and are referred as lifelines of the city.

Madhya Pradesh represents large river basin and the watershed as catchments of many rivers of India lies in Madhya Pradesh. The river systems carry enormous volume of water and provide drainage for almost a quarter of the land area of the State. Out of 14 major river systems of India, MP constitutes the Upper Catchment of 6 river systems such as Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Tapti, Godavari and Mahi.

But, over a period of time with growing urbanization the city’s environment is facing some serious environmental concerns. The city which used to boast about its green spaces, today are being converted into concrete jungles. Townships and other construction activities have pressurized the green growth of the state.

Dr. Subhah C. Pandey

On the occasion of World Environment Day, TA had an exclusive conversation with one of the known environmentalist of Madhya Pradesh,Dr. Subhash C. Pandey. He has been pursuing, in public interest, various petitions in the National Green Tribunals for environmental causes. Dr. Subhash C. Pandey is the Editor-In-Chief of international research journal JERAD (Journal of Environment Research And Development).

Some of his efforts through the National Green Tribunal are highlighted below:

  • Got success in prohibition and regulation of immersion of Idols and Tazias in the drinking water bodies of state of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
  • Got success in stopping the cultivation and sale of vegetables and crops irrigated with untreated sewage and polluted water in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Got success in stopping burning of straw (Agricultural residues) at farm. In the state of Madhya Pradesh, it has now become illegal to burn the fodder in the field.
  • Got success in persuading NGT to pass strong directions to the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh for the scientific disposal of municipal solid waste in all the municipalities of the state.

(a) What is your take on current state of environment in India?

Almost similar to any developing countries. People are very little aware of environmental hazards. Even media has just started to raise the issues at a limited extent. However they are being sensitized by the activists gradually.

(b) Internationally, how will you view the idea of environmentalism?
People of developed countries are well aware of their health and environment. Even for their small ecological  problems, the are filling the case before courts. Tribunals and courts are taking serious cognizance of the issues pertaining to environment and imposing very heavy penalties upon respondents. Eventually, environment has become an important issue / factor in their governance. Effectively, they are also  influencing elections of many developed countries. Gradually this idea/ thought  is passing to developing countries.

(c) Is rapid urbanization raising some environmental concerns in Bhopal?
Of course, environmental status of Bhopal has badly been ruined by unplanned urbanization and mismanagement. Irresponsible and corrupt behavior of responsible authorities viz. Bhopal Municipal Corporation, Pollution Control Board, Town & Country Planning, Urban Administration & development Department, Environment Department , EPCO, SEIAA  etc. resulted the situation like present.

(d) According to the recently released rankings on cleanliness, two cities of Madhya Pradesh topped the chart. What is your evaluation?
Bogus, fake practices and manipulation of center and state agencies yield the ranking as 1st and 2nd to Indore and Bhopal which would have a great negative impact on the actual cleanliness of the cities in near future.

(e) Narmada Seva Yatra was an ambitious and grand plan of MP government to protect and conserve Narmada river. Does it really serves any purpose?
No, it’s a stunt for political mileage only.It has nothing to do with Narmada -cleaning and conservation. On the contrary, Narmada will become more polluted by means of Seva Yatra and various functions being organizing upon it.

(f) The Ken-Betwa river linking project is threatening the Panna Tiger reserve, still the government has approved the project. Your comments

Without analyzing biodiversity and ecological behavior of two rivers, river linking project should not be permitted by monitoring authorities. Unfortunately nothing has done like this in this behalf. This ultimately  threatening the Panna Tiger reserve and nearby flora -fauna and human health as well.

(g) What is the impact of massive illegal sand mining mafia operating in different parts of the Madhya Pradesh?
Cohabitation & breeding, biodiversity and ecology will be directly affected by illegal unbalanced sand mining which eventually pollute the river like any thing. Moreover, sand is natural water filter. It has a great water holding capacity which increases ground water table, local vegetation and fertility of soil as well. It also helps to regulate flood and local temperature. Aquatic animal can survive only in sufficient amount of sand in river.

(h) How will you evaluate the performance of Shivraj Singh’s government on the ground of environment?
Total failure as previous governments are. The worst thing is that Shivraj government has started political propaganda of our worship places and natural resources which will have long term negative effect.