Mining bullies dictate
This is in response to the cover story 'Goa must grow' (February 28, 2007) and editorial 'Goa: Blood on the mountains' (April 15, 2007). It is evident that the mineral production in India, valued at more than Rs 84,000 crore, does not recognise the cost of environmental damage, economic marginalisation, multiple displacement and social unrest. Not surprisingly, even the coercive recommendations of the Anwarul Hoda and A K D Jadhav committees on mining policy do not deal with them. One gets to know of them when police firing and custodial murder of protesters make news.
In such a scenario, anyone who draws attention to human development indicators like health runs the danger of being branded anti-development and an extremist. Dissentors are very often prevailed upon by the state to rewrite recommendations to suit the powers-that-be and corporates such as The Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd and Vedanta Alumina Ltd. One recent example of such browbeating was when a prestigious institute had to take a u-turn on its position on the adverse impacts of mining, since it was funded by the Union ministry of environment and forests.
The situation described in the editorial is grave. The method adopted by mining companies to grab agricultural land for the sake of industrial development is frightening.
I agree that we need iron ore for industrial development, but taking over cultivable land for industries will not help the country develop. After all, no one wants development at the cost of forests and agriculture. The state must look into the concerns of common people and consider social and environmental factors before taking decisions related to industrial development.
The article shows that India's mineral wealth as well as the fate of people living in mineral-rich areas is at the business mafia's mercy. The introduction of special economic zones (sezs), has worsened the situation in states like Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
S S DASH
For a free flight
Apropos the cover story 'Clipped wings' (April 15, 2007), it is clear that the emergence of concrete jungle has wiped out many varieties of birds, making it impossible for us to register their presence in our daily lives.
Growing industrialisation is fast replacing our green cover, disrupting our balance with nature. The present generation needs to be extra cautious before carrying on further industrialisation. The creation of ideal habitat, planting more trees, reducing emissions and ensuring accountability of industrialised nations towards nature are some of the surest means to create a better future for the planet.
Arvind K Pandey
Sparrows are fast disappearing mainly due to the erection of microwave towers for mobile network all over the country. I have observed this in semi-urban and rural areas around Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh), Bolangir (Orissa), Balipara (Assam) and Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh).
Sparrows were once abundant at railway goods sheds and grain warehouses, where grain would get spilled during transportation and storage. But following erection of microwave towers, their population has started dwindling.
Another wild cat in peril
Recent reports of poaching of lions in Gujarat's Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary are discouraging and shameful. It is quite evident that the rich wildlife of the country is on the wane. Earlier, tigers were missing in Sariska, Ranthambore and Panna. Now, the majestic Asiatic lion is facing the brunt of human greed. There are barely 350 Asiatic Lions in the world. They have been sheltered and protected in the Gir forest. Considering that Asiatic Lions appear in the 'A' list of world's top endangered species, it is imperative to provide them utmost security for their survival and growth.
These reports clearly indicate the hands of local people in poaching. There are two ways we could check lion poaching: One, protect the remaining lion population on a war footing so that any future damage is prevented. Two, a reasonable number of lions should be shifted to Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh which has the ideal habitat for lions. A proposal to this extent is still awaiting clearance from Union ministries. This should be passed keeping in mind the benefit and survival of lions. Finally, public awareness and active participation of people is needed to support the cause.
It is disheartening to read about repeated instances of lion poaching in Gir forest. The authorities did not learn a lesson even after the virtual wiping out of the tiger population in Sariska forest reserve. Both locations were said to be protected areas.
Ignorance of the authorities as well as rampant corruption has destroyed our protected land, greenery and animals over the years. Our policy makers are not giving priority to our flora and fauna.
Probir Kumar Bose
The problem with SEZs
I wish to share my concerns on special economic zones (sezs). Media reports say the central and state governments have vested interests in setting them up.
The government needs to ensure that sezs should not be in close proximity or within 100 km radius of state capitals or Delhi. If one can avail all facilities--schools, health centres and leisure complexes--in sezs, there is no reason why they should be close to cities. In this way, we can at least ensure that benefits trickle down to underdeveloped regions.
Moreover, sez policies are pushing the country towards civil unrest. In the attempt to improve gdp growth and lure foreign investors, we are creating conditions conducive to ultra-left insurgency and crime.
I refuse to agree with any statement that says that sezs will generate substantial employment opportunities. These projects will provide jobs to only those who are highly qualified. Let us look at the complete balance sheet, not just a single entry.
Policies relating to sezs will make the future bleak if sufficient caution is not exercised. Conversion of food cropland to cash crop farms, urban areas, biofuel plantations and now to sezs has progressed too rapidly. In the process, arable land for staples and food grains is rapidly shrinking.
What does this portend? Does it mean that we have become self-sufficient in food (though M S Swaminathan has predicted that productivity will gradually fall and we will return to a state of food inefficiency)? How will this affect our import policies? What does this mean for our small and marginal farmers, and more importantly, the landless poor?
If there will be a reduced acreage of arable land for staples and food grains, will this also mean that productivity per unit area has to be increased substantially? How will we increase our productivity? Will we report to crops with 'super genes' or more inputs?
All this requires path-breaking research with assured results. And we have to act fast.
The time has come when we should use the Right to Information Act, 2005 to save our environment. Various organisations are already using the act to extract information from the government. People should also come forward and demand information on policies and practices governing sezs. This will help save the environment from further exploitation in the name of sezs.
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