By Ipshita Mitra:
A class of activists, intellectuals, reformers and environmentalists are on the streets yet again. This time it is not Posco, Vedanta, Polavaram, Singur, nor Narmada Dam but it is the Lavasa Project that has seemed to instill a kind of social unrest and political agitation among the people of India, especially the peripheral sections of a hierarchically graded society who find themselves at the losing-receiving end of the imperialist model of industrial expansion.
The recent decision by the Ministry of Environment and Forest that denies further construction work by the Lavasa Corporation on pretexts of ecological norms and inadequate rehabilitation measures for the displaced has ignited discomfort for the prospective company. Lavasa on the contrary feels that the decision is motivated more by judicial monopoly rather than environmental issues and hence scrutinizes it with suspicion.
While the company alleges that their ambit of corporate social responsibility aims to encompass the needs of the villagers surrounding the site area and build an industrial set-up with the consent of all, the project has provoked social activists and environmentalists like Anna Hazare and Medha Patkar however to point out the anomalies in the 4,000cr budget project. The 25,000 acre township of the hill station city of Lavasa is almost symptomatic of luxury with its location amidst one of the world’s highest rainfall points, the primary reason why it has been under the scanner since its inception in the year 2001. Activists protest on the grounds that the project has not only failed in acquiring the necessary environment clearances as stipulated under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 1994, but the LCL (Lavasa Corporation Limited) has taken environment clearance under “unknown” provisions of the law from the Environment Department of the Maharashtra government.
With construction on 2,000 hectares, complete with four hotels, a town centre, apartments and luxury villas and an adventure sports club, among other amenities, the very nature of the project indicates to cater to the fanciful demands of a specific privileged stratum of society that it seeks to gain monetary patronage from. The cruel and atrocious felling of trees and massive deforestation in the bid of carving out an industrial niche for the so-called “modernised” development of India unfortunately neglects the mutilation of the landscape and nature’s abode at the expense of profit-making ethic. The very concept of “development” has taken on an abusive meaning for the marginalised as they are relegated within the quarters of exclusion and deprivation.
As Philip Larkin, (an Anglo-American poet) had once lamented about the fall of England’s pillar in the wake of industrial revolution and contrasted its ecological perishing with Ireland’s pristine state of flora and fauna synthesis, the present calendar day replicates the concerns of Larkin that he had addressed in the 1920-30s in so far as environmental degradation (in terms(in this case) of haphazard cutting of hills, denuding forests, excavations, road buildings and even violation of the 100 metre buffer rule from the water line) under the hammers of commercialisation is concerned. These actions can lead to erosion and high possibility of landslides affecting the inhabitants.
It is important to note that while Lavasa authorities and the village managers claim that the villagers will be guarded with an equipped system of rehabilitation and employment opportunities in the wake of the industrial enterprise, none of the media organisations whether TV, newspapers or radio have included first hand personal accounts of villagers to lend authenticity to the tall claims of the corporate. This is itself is an indication of denying the voiceless an adequate platform to articulate their reservations against the project. Only the representatives of the villages and the companies have been heard. What about those who will be directly affected by the execution of this project?
It is about time that the nexus between industrial units, corporate domains and the state politicians and officials is broken so that an environmentally and a socially viable atmosphere is created for the people to live in. Barren lands, uprooted forests and wildlife absent hill station can only remain stationary with artificial and commercial ornaments, where sunshine and chirping of birds too will be eclipsed by industrial smoke and polluted fog.
Recognise and choose the “green” of nature and wildlife over the “green” of currencies that only promise a transient satisfaction and fulfilment.