June 30, 2013 5:38:48 am
Like a plague of monsoon insects,environmentalists have swarmed onto our television screens since the Uttarakhand cataclysm. And they have nearly all talked rubbish because they are,nearly,all frauds. Ever since concern for the environment became fashionable,a new breed of NGO was born in India that developed a sudden concern for the environment. It is a lucrative thing to be concerned about. There is plenty of international funding available and many international conferences to attend. Real environmentalists are almost non-existent in our fair and wondrous land so these frauds have managed to get more attention and money than they deserve.
Some have actually switched from being livelihood and poverty activists to protecting the environment mostly for business reasons. Their fraudulence becomes evident if you hear them speak in the company of real environmentalists. I happened to have had this privilege,and so heard one of our noisiest lady environmentalists actually declare in Davos that Indian farmers were rich until international seed companies like Monsanto arrived. Any farmer could have told this lady that the international seed companies are a welcome change from state-owned companies which have often sold them junk. But farmers have no voice on television and the lady fraud has a very loud one.
So,after what happened in Uttarakhand,people of her ilk have got away with blaming development for having violated the laws of nature for what was,in fact,a natural disaster. There have been natural disasters in the Himalayas since the beginning of time. If this one was manmade as they claim,then it was because the political leaders who have governed Uttarakhand have been careless about making contingency plans for natural disasters. As they have been careless about development. Where development is concerned,this is mostly because our environmentalists and our even more fraudulent environment ministers have made some very stupid rules.
The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand pointed out that it was impossible for him to forbid further building activity for a hundred kilometres on either side of the Ganga as it would destroy the livelihood of thousands of villages. He is right and yet,this was,according to him,recommended by environmentalists and imposed by the Environment Ministry. Would it not have been better to ensure that building activity along the Ganga was more carefully planned?
If we want proof of the criminal failure of our Environment Ministry and our environmentalists,you need only look at the state of the Ganga and the Yamuna. Our two most sacred rivers have become sewers despite thousands of crores of rupees having been spent on cleaning them. And yet,the only noise we hear from environmentalists is when a new dam is built. Have they noticed that it was the dams on the Ganga that stopped the whole of Uttarakhand from being washed away? Have they noticed that alternative sources of energy like solar,wind and bio-fuels have mostly failed?
There are other things they do not notice and of these the most important is the Environment Ministrys inability to come up with measureable standards and guidelines. It is ludicrous that every project should be examined individually and even more ludicrous that the Environment Minister gets to decide how high a building should be in Mumbai. According to experts,India will need 500 new cities to deal with the kind of urbanisation that is expected to take place in the next couple of decades. How will we build them at this rate? How will we build them if silly coastal restriction zones apply in a city like Mumbai? Cities all over the world exist on sea and on rivers and they look a lot better than Indian cities.
If we had even a handful of serious environmental groups in India,we would today not have cities that have become disgusting slums,rivers that have become sewers and beaches that in most of India are used as public toilets. There are environmental issues we need to confront and the most serious of these is water. When did you last hear an environmentalist mention this? Sanitation is another serious issue that goes unmentioned because all we seem able to talk about is major projects that must be stopped in the name of sustainable development.
What our environmentalists mean by this is usually that they will continue to live in air-conditioned homes with refrigerators and computers but these are things that rural Indians must live without. If this is sustainable development,it is not going to happen. Development will happen. It must happen in a manner that causes as little harm to our mountains,forests,beaches and rivers as possible. So,it really is a shame that we have not managed to produce serious environmental NGOs or for that matter serious environmental journalists.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh
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