Then the population grew and spaces shrank. Ordered life gave way to chaos and the Yuga changed. Mantra gave way to tantra, and with it came invasions, pillage and mass migrations. The need for fortifications arose and the first cities took shape. They were primitive, polluted and prone to disease. This then lead to the era of yantra and man started constructing momentous monuments. His creature comforts and aspirations to grandeur became very important. His life turned to the external and was once again ruled largely by Shri Lakshmi. The cities as a result became linear and were driven by rapid and rampant industrialization with life becoming increasingly defined through material acquisitions. The new metaphor for the city was now the ‘machine’. All machines are based on linear principles: cause and effect – I push the pencil and it moves. But nature is non-linear; the cause does not immediately have an effect, it takes its own time to manifest.
If nature is non-linear then does the principle of cause and effect not apply to nature?
Processes are cyclical in the world of nature, so that the effects are fed back to the original causes through various loops of energy. As a result, seemingly small inputs suddenly show up as huge consequences. Edward Lorentz discovered this while studying world weather patterns in 1963. Lorentz showed how very small changes in weather patterns could precipitate huge changes thousands of miles away. He coined the phrase, ‘the butterfly effect’ whereby ‘a small butterfly flapping its wings in Peking could change the weather in New York’. This was prophetic indeed because the ‘El Nino factor’ is now legendary. A small current in the Pacific has been empirically found to affect global weather patterns.
How can this help solve the mess that is our city?
Firstly, we must create more feedback loops to clear the environment chaos. This process has begun as courts have become proactive and support public interest litigation (PIL) made by concerned citizens. The compressed natural gas (CNG) enforcement for public vehicles, the resident welfare associations (RWA) fighting against the commercial corruption of their streets and NGOs fighting for the survival of trees are examples of these.
Additionally, we need think tanks looking at out-of-the-box solutions. Many such ideas could be the ‘butterfly effect’ for major improvements. An Indian Oil (the Indian Oil building in Madangir, where every window has a shade that is a solar panel) or an ITC can create the example of world renowned ‘green’ buildings. All these are seeds of change being sowed in our metropolis. Just as NGOs have worked relentlessly to change the mindset of the young with regard to water conservation or banning the burning of Diwali crackers, we must increase their interest in, and knowledge of trees. Kew Gardens in London attracts huge numbers of schoolchildren and I remember them staring in awe at the amazing collection of tropical and temperate plants in large glasshouses. We could apply this to our city and perhaps adopt the Deer Park or the green belt along the Yamuna and turn them into beautiful botanical gardens which could be self-sustaining tourist locations. We have only one Sundar Nagar nursery, which is an amazing nursery – let us make two such nurseries and have a more vigorous environment. The British did their research well and planted shade-giving trees along the roads – trees such as tamarind and jamun. But we could plant trees with fragrant flowers – why do we plant cassia when we could plant kachnar, karaunda, jungli ber? They are all hardy and do not require regular watering.
Is there anything we Delhiites could learn from other cities?
We should create more ‘hyper cycles’ of knowledge by learning from other cites. Lee Myung Bak of South Korea demolished an elevated highway and resurrected a buried water stream. He went against all conventions and jogged straight into the hearts of the environmentalists and voters of Seoul. Another example is the clearance initiative of the Maharashtra government. This act could be used sensibly to transform ‘unauthorized’ colonies where high-rise green building towers are built to accommodate the population and make room for desperately needed civic amenities. We have to go vertical to economize on space in the city.
Is there hope for the environment?
The great thing about nature is that it is regenerative – it is something that cannot be destroyed by corruption. Even cement and mortar change, but not nature. We simply need the right thought processes, and the resources will follow. Designs can be such that nothing is wasted or pollutes the atmosphere. The moment there are five such buildings, buildings that are financially viable as well as environmentally sound, everyone will want to emulate them. Corruption will be replaced by the need for competitive profit, which is quite legitimate. All this should take about 20 years for the processes to correct themselves. People will understand how to coalesce and create structures that improve everyone’s quality of life.
The real winds of change emanate from each individual citizen. It is we who have to think. To think whether it is necessary to make that trip or use that plastic bag, thus bringing about the quiet revolution that will in turn feed into the greater picture, thereby influencing the underlying serendipity.
A splendid example of a banyan tree is Timmamma Marimanu in Anantpur district, Andhra Pradesh, spread over 7 acres and propped up by 1,500 aerial roots.