ByÂ Ali Abbas:
India is experiencing a new wind of change. Development seems to be the word of the moment. Many people are in the illusion that PM Modi will wave his magic wand and in the next few years we will be transformed as a nation at par with USA and the European countries. In such an atmosphere, if any leaked IB report points out on certain NGOs and activists who are receiving foreign funds as a threat to nation’s economic security, certain sections of the society are bound to react angrily.
Ever since the new government was formed, development has become synonymous to nationalism and whosoever questions the real cost and beneficiaries of development is being viewed as less national. In some cases even anti-national and a threat to the economic security of the country. One such organization which is highlighted profoundly in the report for the loss of GDP is Greenpeace India. Having volunteered and worked as a fund raiser for Greenpeace for more than 5 years now, this is what I believe, Greenpeace is to me:
More than an organization, Greenpeace is a movement, which believes in people before profit. It promotes the idea of sustainable development with equal concerns for nature, wildlife and people. Its work is backed by concrete scientific research and promotes meaningful alternative solutions.
Ever since Greenpeace India started campaigning in 2001, it registered its first major victory in 2004 when Supreme Court’s monitoring committee on hazardous waste fined Hindustan Liver Limited (HLL) with 50 crore for damages caused to environment by its mercury thermometer factory plant in Kodaikanal. HLL was also asked to set up health clinics for people to recover from the effects of mercury poisoning.
Campaigning on the issue of ship breaking industry, in the year 2006, after the pressure from Greenpeace and its supporters, French President Chirac recalled asbestos-laden warship Clemenceau, back to France from India. The 27,000 ton of warship was full of asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyl, lead, mercury and other toxic chemicals which was supposed to be dismantled in Alang ship-breaking Industry in Gujarat. The underlining message was that India is not the dumping ground for rich countries.
To promote energy efficiency in the country, Greenpeace ran a campaign called “Ban the Bulb” in 2006. Massive awareness efforts were made to let people know about energy efficiency and to replace incandescent bulb with CFLs to reduce energy consumption. After three years of campaigning, the government launched “Bachat Lamp Yojana” by subsidising CFLs for the general public hence saving energy.
Standing alongside farmers and their rights, Greenpeace has been campaigning against the controversial and MNC controlled Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Greenpeace India brought the debate into public sphere by highlighting scientific evidences and examples from other countries. In the year 2010 after several rounds of public consultations, the then Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh put the commercialisation of BT Brinjal on an indefinite moratorium.
Reminding the legislators about the Bhopal Gas tragedy, worst ever industrial disaster in India that claimed more than 15,000 lives, Greenpeace India lobbied for stringent nuclear liability laws by demanding for ‘polluters pay policy’ with unlimited liability for unlimited duration of time. However, what was passed in the parliament after all that drama was complete supplier liability and instead of unlimited liability, quick compensation was raised from Rs 500 crores to 1500 crores with a clause which allows government to increase compensation judging from the scale of the accident.
Apart from these, regular efforts were made to expose environmental crimes in the country and Greenpeace lobbied for rules that favour protection and preservation of environment by demanding polluters pay policy.
Time and again, Greenpeace India has kept publishing reports and research to raise the issue of environment in the public. All these reports in public domain are meant to be challenged, debated and its key recommendations to be implemented.
What makes Greenpeace’s voice stronger in India or elsewhere is its financial independence. Greenpeace never accepts funding from governments, political parties or corporates. All its donations are carefully scrutinized and its balance sheet is uploaded on the website every year. Its funding sources are public. All its funds are received via bank transactions hence making it transparent, unlike political parties whose funding sources are not known.
The organization works on global issues of utmost importance like climate change and global warming, chemical free agriculture, saving our last remaining forests, defending ocean and stopping yet another nuclear disaster. It promotes renewable energy and community driven solutions. This means if Greenpeace opposes coal in India, it does the same in Australia or America or wherever it campaigns in the world.
The only people to be threatened by Greenpeace campaigning are the greedy corporates, for whom maximization of profit means everything and care for the environment means nothing. For those intelligent people, a proverb says, when the last tree is cut, when the last river is poisoned, when the last fish is dead, we will realize that we can’t eat money.
About the author: Ali Abbas is an environment activist in India.