What Did We Forget In Our Race Towards Development

Posted on February 1, 2013 in Environment

By Akhil Kumar:

Our Prime Minister’s statement at the inauguration of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) in New Delhi is a clear testimony to the hypocrisy of the state; “The global environmental agenda and the global development agenda were interlinked” he says. The ‘honourable’ prime minister seems to be suffering from selective amnesia; did he forget about the SEZ’s, POSCO, Koodankulam and the numerous policies framed under his government that are meant to ease the way for corporate plunder of natural resources. He should go for a morning walk around the banks of Yamuna sometime and explain to us the environmental and development agendas he was talking about; in the race for development, environmental issues have been long forgotten.

We have no dearth of laws and regulation – “India has very strong environmental laws but has historically had very weak environmental enforcement.” says Jairam Ramesh, the so called ‘environmental revolutionary’ of India. The corporations have no compunction in squeezing out profits by blatantly abusing the natural resources and also the people who stand in resistance, it’s outrageous to watch the leaders become an ally to the corporations for vested interests. We have had laws to protect the environment even before 5th century AD; Yajnavalkya Smriti, a historic Indian text on statecraft and jurisprudence, prohibited the cutting of trees and prescribed punishment for such acts. The need for forest administration is also emphasised in Kautalya’s ‘Arthashastra’ and welfare of environment and biodiversity was mentioned in Ashoka’s seven pillar edicts.

It was heartening to read news recently that Law of the Rights of Mother Earth was passed by Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly which declares that Earth has rights too. It is an interesting development and I would definitely hope something of this sort is done in our country too. While it is understandable that the rapid industrialisation and development initiatives make it difficult for environmental safety but it is too high a cost to pay. There is urgent need to take stringent regulatory measures to check environmental pollution and misuse of natural resources.

Overall development cannot be seen in isolation from environmental development. Jairam Ramesh has given some important recommendations and it would be very helpful if implemented, he suggests Citizen-accessible environmental courts and an on-going measurement of environmental costs of development called “Green GDP“. It’s time we start taking initiatives even on an individual level to ensure that we leave a better planet for the next generation. There are many places in our country where people worship nature, be it mountains, rivers or trees and it’s a stupendous feat of irony to see this unchecked plunder of nature in the same land.

Let us take some time out to think about ways to return the favour to our environment as we owe it to our next generation. Is this the world you would like your children to be born into?