Monday, 7 April 2014

India tops world list of environment conflicts

Exploitation of natural resources to fuel economy to blame

MUMBAI: Massive exploitation of natural resources and mineral ores to fuel the economy has put India on top of the world list of environment conflicts. India has the maximum number of environment conflicts, according to a global atlas, which has mapped ecological struggles over the years and was released in Brussels last month.

In the list of environment conflicts, India (123) is closely f ollowed by Nigeria ( 122), Colombia (75), Brazil (61) and other countries.
Of the total 924 cases of agitations against extraction of natural resources across the world, 123 are from India. They are against mineral extraction; land acquisition for nuclear, thermal and hydroelectric plants, airports, dams and others carried out by both government and private players.

Most of these projects have come up after 1991’s economic l iberalisation. “A majority of people in India, unlike in developed and middle-income countries, depend on natural resources such as forest, land and water. In the name of socalled development, the government first lays its hands on these resources and those directly affected are the weakest,” said Himanshu Thakkar of Delhibased South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People.

Since 2011, more than 100 scientists and activists all over the world have been mapping spaces of resistance spanning 35 years, as part of the Environment Justice Org anisations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT), a European Union (EU) project that will conclude in 2015 with a target of covering 2,000 conflicts.

The global atlas reveals that majority of the conflicts are related to land (226), arising out of mineral ore exploration and land acquisition. Water, electricity, crude oil, gold, coal dominate the list of commodities responsible for such struggles.

“Most people hear about major disasters. But the map shows t hat environmental impacts are part of the normal workings of the economy, and that extraction of resources carries ecological costs paid for by the most marginalised populations,” said Leah Temper, an EJOLT project manager, via email.

India has witnessed several protests in different parts with locals opposing projects with environment conflicts. “The regard for environment laws, forest rights, social justice have deteriorated rapidly and all projects are being sanctioned,” said ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who had chaired the Western Ghats ecology expert panel. “As a result, people are getting desperate because the government is flouting both people’s righ ts and environment rules.”

India has a history of environment movements and conflicts – the Chipko movement against deforestation in the 1970s, the Nar mada Bachao Andolan against the construction of large dams across the Narmada in the 1980s, and the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984.

“In over 30 years of mobilisations, activists have managed to create networks and have been able to counter the mantra of modernisation and development,” stated the contents of the atlas for India.

According to the EJOLT team, 17% of the reported cases have been successes with regard to “environment justice”, where due compensation was paid, the project was cancelled, the investors pulled out or the movement or community was strengthened.

Source::: Hindustan Times, 06-04-2014, p.07,