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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

World Environment Day, 2007

What does it mean to us in India?

While the developed world starts to watch its over obese waist line and wants to cut back on its carbon emission, thinks up cheap ways of balancing its consumption such as carbon credits, wants to calculate and reduce even environmental consciousness into a number to measure oneself against and hence feel less guilty ('you know I scored rather well above average in my personal carbon foot print this week, better than most of my neigbours, I am happy'), we in India want to turn every green patch into a concrete foundation if possible.

Our obsession with attracting FDI and facilitating FDI in just about everything, to ensure that those who bring in the solemn FDI can have it easy in every way, that they are provided with the land, water, mines, people, government, ministers, corruption and whatever else they require even before they say a word is today the greatest destructive force against our environment. Our bureaucrats are its carriers and mouth pieces. Our press sees no contradiction to carry news only few days back on the high speed land purchase running to several hundred hectares by MNCs for yet another SEZ promotion and also carry page long 'dedication' to green causes this morning. After all increase in their business and increasing number of pages is a direct affront on trees.

Notional planting of a tree is all that the political bosses have done for many years and as the famous joke goes, maybe they are planting in the same spot every year. Trees disappear in cities and highways in the name of road or building expansion. Chennai's green cover (such as it is) has been challenged like never before through the current road expansion. Some green groups have reduced even planting of trees to number game, there was a celebrated guru planting 'lakhs' of saplings in one day, how many survived is doubtful. Maybe Gurus who promise instant nirvana also think they can create overnight forests. The traditional conservation activities in temples and common lands may only remain part of a memory.

Perhaps ten years back those who spoke of 'development', many NGOs in particular would talk about 'green', 'environment', 'sustainability' as a value that was easy to understand. Currently with the advent of the 'market', these are all but disappearing. 'Market integration' of their 'developmental' agenda has taken over as a priority among many in this field too. Fuel, particularly bio-diesel has crowded the discussions in many environmental discussion groups as a matter of livelihood to communities, the environment in which the communities have dropped from the agenda. The entire perpetuation of the carbon credit has been latched on to by many in the development sector as an opportunity to attract sure money.

Our development today is at the cost of environment and as Gandhiji mentioned, if India ever desires to live the life of America, then all the resources in the world also cannot be enough. But, that is precisely what we are working towards, eventually we may declare that the problem is too many of us, and as the popular columnists TJS George points out, there may not be too distant a future when we start questioning why not reduce the people cover a wee-bit in some non-productive sectors (similar to bringing down tree cover today) so as to bring down needless consumption!

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