Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
WHAT do depleting resource-bases have to do with riots,
insurgency and revolution? The promise of a meaty answer, in
the lavish surroundings of the stately Neemrana Fort Palace
Hotel in Rajasthan, drew a group of academicians and activists
to a two-day workshop last December. The project
originated with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
andthe Peace and Conflict Studies Program, University of
- The p roject's three case studies (including one on water
scarcity in China and the other onpressure on forest lands in
Indonesia) considered demand-induced, supply-induced and
structural environmental scarcities. The Neemrana workshop
discussed the third draft of the India paper by Shaukat Hassan,
director, Global Affairs Research Partners, Ottawa.
The participants had been chosen as advisors to the project
when.it started two years ago, but this was the first time that
they were brought together to give their views. Hassan had an
interesting task: to see whether the Malthusian prediction was
coming true in Bihar and gauge the state machinery's ability to
deal with the situation. But the workshop's raison d'Otre
collapsed when the project's principal investigator, Thomas
Homer-Dixon (University of Toronto), announced that the
agenda had been altered to exclude civil violence, and instead
focussed on the effects of environmental scarcity and the
state's management capacity.
Homer-Dixon started out by saying that Bihar has good
croplands and rich mineral resources, and there are no severe
supply-induced shortages. This had some of the participants
protesting again. If the conflicts in Bihar were socioeconomic
and cultural, not environmental scarcity (for the state seemed
to be having plenty), why was the state chosen as a representative case to study the effects of cropland shortages?
"The agrarian unrest in Bihar is not due to extreme
conflicts'for scarce resources like water and land, but also
due to political mobilisation and competition for
state resources as a whole, including jobs,' said
Ajit. Mazoomdar of the Delhi-based Centre for Policy
Research. He emphasised the need to define civil violence
within the context of the debate.
Hassan's draft, meanwhile, was found to be lacking not
only in establishing demand or structurally induced scarcities
in Bihar, but also in drawing the necessary links between the
scarcities and their effect on state capacity. It was found to be
statistically poor, making difficult to arrive at sufficiently convincing conclusions.
For example, Hassan tried to relate decreasing state capacity to falling land revenues as a percentage of the state's total
tax revenue. But the participants pointed out that in Bihar it is
not the yield but the amount of land cultivated that decides
Kailash C Malhotra from the Indian Statistical
Institute pointed out that scarcity cannot be measured by
taking only one parameter, like cropland or water into
account. An overall picture of important resources has to
be considered. Smitu Kothari from Lokayan pointed out that
the Bihar government had extracted revenue from both,
mineral and forest wealth, but spent very little resources
on the community. So-the presumption that increased
revenue meant increased state capacity was demolished
Leela Gulati from the Centre for Development Studies,
Thiruvananthapuram, pointed out that with the project
already two-thirds under way, it was a little late in the day to
look for advice. "What is our role... are we simply to react to
what has already been done?" she asked.
Kothari finally hammered in the last nail, quoting a 1993
- report, which, he said, had actually shown a decline in violence
in the state, scarcity or no scarcity!
Thereafter, discussions on the paper were abandoned and
the participants went back to square one. It was apparent that
much was wrong even with the conceptualisation of the
project. Homer-Dixon tried to explain away the lacunae by
saying that a paucity of funds had not permitted a meeting
with the Indian advisors prior to the start of the project. But
the us $400,000 budget and the plush locale of the workshop
made that a little hard to swallow.