The invitation was innocuous. The Confederation of Indian Industry (cii) -- the grouping of the large and most powerful industries -- was convening a meet on forests. The purpose, said the invitation (which reached us by chance), was to discuss how the country would achieve the national target of 33 per cent forest and tree cover by 2012. The minister for environment was the key speaker and the ministry of environment and forests was the co-organiser. The question was: what was industry's interest in planting trees? Why was the ministry associated with this meeting? What was being cooked in this broth?
The fact is that industry's interest in land (not just forests) dates back to the mid-1980s. The proposal is delicious because it is so simple. India has large tracts of lands without tree cover. These are lands classified as forests but lying degraded. The country needs to plant trees. But the government says it lacks funds. Industry says that it needs raw material from forests. It has the capital to pay for planting trees and the technology and managerial ability to do massive afforestation. If trees are planted, the poor will get jobs. This is a win-win option.
But we, who have been tracking the story for the past 20 years, know that the proposal has been on the table for years. It has been pushed, each time with some changes in the detail of the scheme, each time with bigger and bigger players in the fray. The last was in early 2000, when Reliance Industries almost secured rights over forests of Andhra Pradesh. But still, each time the proposal has been rejected because it is understood that it will do nothing for poor people who depend on the forests and nothing even for the forests it aims to protect.
But if this is known, why the renewed interest? What does the newest look of the old proposal promise? What position does this government, with its common minimum programme, take on this idea, which has been the bugbear of tribal activists and environmentalists for many years? Nitin Sethi investigates history and current affairs to uncover the newest deal.
Bird flu resurfaces, exposes weakness of testing system
Labourers in Tripura plantations get a better deal
Narmada dam gets boost, faces opposition
Seismic zoning map for the country underestimates risk
Carnivores play the key role in keeping the earth green
WB chokes Lake Victoria
Monsanto breaks its vow
Tsunami experience redefines coastal zones
Kyoto's compliance force begins operation
Carbon sequestration plan in North Sea
EU Commission proposes to diversify energy supplies
A meet on evaluating the value of forests
Conduct epidemiological study, says court
Disease has varied strings, needs differents vaccines
Tribals will be rehabilitated, but how?
Human genes are evolving with changing environment
Biofilter for domestic wastewater
Cheap option to treat effluent
Warehousing Bill, a double-edged sword for farmers
Users may soon have to pay for what they see online
Experts wary of EcoSecurities' entry into Indian market
Graham Brookes, an agricultural economist and director of the UK-based PG Economics limited, a research and consultancy organisation, has authored a study on ge...
South American cane toads introduced into Australia to check sugarcane pests have become a menace
Lisus, Namdapha officials 'talk' in Arunachal
Typhoid could have caused the fall of the powerful city state during the Peloponnesian wars, says a new study