Ramesh rhetoric cools!
Environment ministry changing its direction?
Development realities hit hard environment concerns?
Posco, the South Korean steel giant gets clearance for its 12 billion dollar investments in steel and port projects in Orissa. This is the biggest FDI in India and waited for 6 long years of gestation before the ministry was forced, by circumstances (beyond its control?) to get cleared by the environment ministry. So too the minister’s once-high decibel rhetoric.
Just after the Cabinet reshuffles which didn’t reshuffle anybody out of the Cabinet but only gave some indications to change everyone’s ideas of immortality, the environment minister seems to have changed much of his turns out to be empty rhetoric.
The very political and economic environment favours almost all the big corporate that are into this area. Posco has got relief, Lavasa is under some breather, the high profile Vedanta of Anil Agarwal has been allowed to enter the forbidden territory of Niamagiri hills
That is why there is some sense of relief, given the series of developments so far.
Coastal Regulation Zones notification in 1999 was suddenly found out as violated and then the Adarsh co-op multi storey building in the CRZ land was cited as the reason for the order of demolition, issued by the MOEF finally on Jan 16, 2011.
The MOEF is under great pressure to ease the conditions on a number of projects since then. We can see now the Lavasa multi-housing project, again in an obvious delicate ecology, it looks, might after all go through. The conditional order might become unconditional order, it looks like that.
Of course environment protection is a critical job and it is not done easily. There are so many pressures now on the government. It is this aspect we want to highlight here.
Development is also a critical issue for the upliftment of the poor and the whole benefits that come out of any development, in any sector.
But then realities are realities. No minister or ministry can be idealistic and one has to take a pragmatic view of the developments in the field, many a time, the ministry and the Supreme Court had given relief and also normalised by giving clearances after a project is completed and what else to be done?
Can we go on demolishing the houses or the dams or industrial projects where hundreds of crores are poured in as investment?
Now, the whole scenario in the government and outside in the country is one of much discomfort at the many developments.
The SC is burdened with the 2G spectrum, the court is supervising the CBI enquiries and resolving the stonewalling of the government over unearthing the black money stashed in foreign banks, the very economy is turned into a black money economy, 50 per cent of the GDP is in black and so the system has become so distorted there is no sense of governance and no discipline and anybody with clout can get things done or “fixed”.
Illegality in the country touches every segment, from politics to bureaucracy and so on.
For some time ago, the biggest talking point was one corruption or the other. Now, the whole scenario has changed. There is no end; it seems, to this deterioration.
In this light we can see there are certain positive trends as well. On the green cover, on forestry cover and the various development schemes, there is certain good news. One is the forestry cover. Rural development and urbanisation has led to displacement of people from their traditional habitats. One consequence is the displacement of tribal population from their forest areas.
So, we find the tribal agitations often promoted by the Maoists or even spontaneously by other developments. The very Red Corridor would give us an idea how serious this neglect of tribal people. The various development schemes didn’t fully calm the affected people. So, these areas at the very heartland of India need new strategies, new development strategies and also new innovative development approaches. It is here, the current government seems to be losing ground in some sense. Also, we need to organise the development programmes in a new fashion.
Who can do this? Only those who are experienced in rural and state administration. Why a man like Dig Vijay Singh who was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, who has raised his voice over what to do in the Red Corridor was not drafted for such a task?
What is the purpose of Cabinet reshuffle when you don’t drop any one minister and you just retain even the most tainted ones in the process?
So, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is either incompetent or he was not allowed to do anything on his own. Then, why such a person should stick to his job, as if it is a government appointment. The whole media did condemn the Cabinet reshuffle.
Let us hope, the rural development programmes now under operation might shift peoples dependence on forests and on forest dependent activities.
This was also the view of the secretary of the MEF, P.J.Dilip Kumar who spoke at a recent seminar on Tropical Ecosystems: Structure, Function and Services. By ensuring education and employment to 300 million rural population, their dependence on forest dependence might be removed said he. Of course, he might not know in detail what this rather opaque suggestion means. Anyhow, there is some hope to expect that the next decade in development might ease the pressure of population dependant on forests and forest areas.
One good news was that at present in India we have 20 to 25 per cent of land area under forest cover.
As for the future of forestry in India, the proposal is from moving away from miscellaneous forestry to monoculture industrial species. Climate change now has now added some urgency to some specific action. Many new initiatives are called for. India, we are told, has some 75 million hectares of forests, despite being a country with one of the higest population density. India is also very successful in preserving about 50 per cent of the tiger and elephant populations in our forests. Our forests give such a protection to the wildlife? Yes, seems to be the answer now at any rate.
In the time of climate change, we need more and more activities to preserve our ecosystems.
This is also the time of international year4 of the biodiversity (2010), international year of the forests (2011) and the time is also here to preserve the forest genetic resources.
There is a forest genetic resource network institute in Dehradun and already there is one Institute of Forest Genetic Institute in Coimbatore. It has a very long history and unfortunately its work is not known widely.
As per the FAO reports 2001, during 1980-2000 288 million hectares, about 21 per cent of the forests covered by the tropical forests in 1980 went under the axe! The CBE-based institute announced that that the total forests in India, about 86 per cent were tropical, 5.6 per cent subtropical, 6 per cent temperate and 2.4 per cent alpine.
Forests are a very important and sensitive issue. Wide public awareness and public education and involvement would go a long way to preserve our life bearing ecology and the very many ecological systems.
Development is critical. Very rapidly our rural landscape is changing. Large areas of lands are getting dug up for mining or industrial projects. So too the big and small dams. So too urbanisation.
The issue of development vs. environment is not a one-dimensional issue. It is multi level issue and has very many complexities.
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