Neither rosy nor green

ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES· Edited by C K Varshney and D R Sardesai·Wiley Eastern Limited·Unpriced

By Vijayalakshmi Bajpai
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

IT is beyond dispute that the pattern of economic development has substantially altered the relationship between humans and nature. But never has the underlying sociological, political and environmental impact of such economic development been called into question. Consequently, this monistic view of development has linked economic productivity to an energy-intensive and ecologically- destructive technoculture. Against the backdrop of such perversity comes this book, Environmental Challenges, a compilation of articles covering a wide spectrum of environmental issues. That environment and development are no longer mutually exclusive is highlighted well by the book.

Given the high degree of inter -relatedness between people and countries today, one cannot ignore the fact that the environment too is global and knows no political or geographical boundaries. A paradigm shift has been stressed upon to establish 'sustainable development', as proposed by the Brundtland Report, 1987, in order to meet present-day needs without compromising on the ability of future generations to meet their necessities.

H S Chopra's article, which discusses the World Bank's involvement in environmental affairs calls upon executing agencies to work out a strategy to incorporate non-govermental organisations, whereby the peoples' participation can be channelised into developmental planning.

Being a manifestation of disparities in the development process, environmental deterioration is quite evident in the Third World. Faced with the dire need of survival after attaining independence, these countries were manoeuvered into adopting Western models of development without an in-depth examination of their relevance to their specific needs and priorities. Thus, environmental safeguards were pushed to the back seat and were considered a luxury they could ill-afford. Such an undifferentiated growth pattern has not only led to a replication of the environmental problems of the West but also pushed these nations into indebtedness and impoverishment.

V M Meher-Homji is of the opinion that efforts at conservation often come into conflict with the interests of local forest dwellers. He has suggested some germane, people-friendly ways of conserving biodiversity. For instance, mangroves, because of their salt-tolerant genes, offer immense possibilities of rise in sea level. Also, harvesting dew in coastal areas could help overcome the problem of salinity.

Although the book primarily reflects environmental problems and their solutions from an Indian perspective, the presentations are pertinent to the experiences of developing countries in general too. Liberal economic policies are welcome, but they need to be environmentally disciplined because the 'free-trade zones' established to boost exports in developing countries are fast becoming epicentres of environmental degradation.

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