THE message of the citizens' fifth report on the state of india's environment

Published: Wednesday 31 March 1999


What does India's environmental future look like at the end of the century?
The Citizens' Fifth Report on the State of India's Environment just released by the Centre for Science and Environment is a document on the current state of the environment but it also provides a peep into the future -- what we can make of it if we seize the opportunities that the past has presented to us and take action to prevent the threats that we face.

In sum, two simple points can be made about India's environmental future:
- If India learns from the outstanding work that has been undertaken to promote community-based natural resource management in the 1980s and 1990s and ensures that these efforts are replicated on a large scale in ecological regions to which they are applicable, then a large part of India's rural poverty can be wiped out in the next 10-20 years.
- On the other hand, India's urban areas will be reeling under increasing pollution, traffic congestion and wastes, making urban life almost unbearable. And given the fact that all those instruments that create public opinion -- from academics to the media -- will largely focus on the urban situation, there will be a growing sense of despair among the powerful urban elite about the future of India even though the rural situation could be improving. We have not even started addressing the problems in the urban sector and have very few innovative paradigms which can give us real hope.

There is, thus, a lot to look forward to as well as to dread.

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