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The Development Agenda – and the unreported fall-out.

04 May

In India we have a saying… ” Har ek pal ek ullu banta hai“- every minute someone is made to be a fool. And the best and the longest trick for which everyone falls for is – “Development”.

How often does one hear the phrase like – “the Next”.. “the sunrise country”…”the leading nation”… Our poor northern neighbour fell for it…now it could be India’s turn, if care is not taken.

Grown in China: ‘arsenic rice’

Didi Kirsten Tatlow, NYT NEWS SERVICE;Soil in China’s leading rice-producing region shows high levels of heavy metal contamination, in a study that suggests that the proximity of mining and industry to agricultural areas is posing serious threats. Researchers for Greenpeace sampled farmland and uncultivated soil, water and rice grown near a smelter of nonferrous metals in Hunan Province. In some locations of the study, they found soil containing cadmium levels more than 200 times the national health standard, adding to a growing body of evidence that parts of the country’s soil are heavily degraded after decades of fast industrialization and high economic growth. All but one of the rice samples exceeded the maximum level of cadmium in rice for human consumption in China. The study extended the concept by listing “arsenic rice,” “mercury rice” and “lead rice.” Of those four toxic substances, only mercury levels appeared relatively safe. With a fast pace of urbanization, China is struggling to save enough land for farming and keep a high rate of grain selfsufficiency. But apart from quantity, whether it can maintain soil health remains a question.

Dead pigs floating in Chinese river

Most recently, Chinese state media reported last Thursday that at least 170 dead pigs were found bobbing in a tributary of China’s second-longest waterway, the Yellow River, in northwestern Qinghai province. This is just the latest in a string of similar incidents that have raised fears over food safety, since the river is the major source of irrigation water for nearby regions…..It was a similar story last year, when 6,000 dead pigs were pulled from Shanghai’s waterways in three days. As Care2′s Kristina Chew reported, local authorities were quick to assert that the presence of thousands of dead pig carcasses in the river had no effect on the water supply, although the blogospere begged to differ…And in fact, the number of pig corpses found in the Huangpu River, which provides 22 percent of the water supply for Shanghai, grew to around 16,000. Officials questioned farmers in the neighboring province of Zhejiang about dumping the pigs but got nowhere.

The above report sums up my angst.

No sensible person would be against development.

But development can’t be a tool which is used by a few to rule the World as their own fiefdom.

The growth of the China model is a superlative example of what transpires when one wears lens tinted by the czars of crony capitalism. Never would they document the dead pigs which floated down river in thousands..nor would they document destruction of habitat or extinction of species. “This is the minimum price one has to pay” they argue ” else we would be living in caves”.

Yes! even those who are concious of the environment,today use the very tools which perhaps has led to unsustainable practice. But there is a difference between those who speak of Development and those who wish to spread awareness on Sustainable Development.

Whether one likes it or not, compliment must be given to the masters who with their glib talk supported with superb power-point presentations made the Chinese believe that they would be rulers of Earth, should they open up their doors to become the centre of manufacturing. From the humble pin to planes, everything the modern world needs gets manufactured in China.

Vehicles move slowly on a fog-shrouded road in Huai’an City, east China’s Jiangsu Procinve, Jan. 30.

Yes! They have grown rich & powerful. But at a terrible cost to their environment. Their cites are polluted, their  rivers are dying and even the air they breath has itself turned into a killer !

I’m sure the Chinese government did not factor these things when they set out to become a “economically powerful nation”.

It really feels sad when a Nation which has perhaps given humans a taste of civilization a few thousand years ago, can fall into a trap to think it is not a great and powerful nation which it used to be!

The first light of Chinese civilization revealed itself 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, as indicated by the ruins of the Daxi Culture in Sichuan and Hubei provinces (more).

The word crony capitalism was not coined back then..

India shares much of the similarities with its northern neighbour, she too is an ancient civilization. And here to there’s a clamour for “Development”. More foreign direct investment the better some say.

While it must have some merit, what is not being said is would those who come to make investment which directly translates to the word PROFIT; really be bothered about how it achieves its target? History, whether recent or ancient has proven that the indigenous tribe, culture and habitat has always faced destruction and at times extinction in the guise of development.

There has been development of too few at the cost of too many. Just count the list of Developed versus Underdeveloped Nations and you would get an idea.

While we like to call ourselves as a Developing Country in term of Economic power, we fail to highlight that India ranks much higher in the list of Inclusive Wealth Report.

Inclusive Wealth Report.

The indicators used in the past to measure human societies’ success have proven to be insufficient. Economic production indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI) fail to reflect the state of natural resources or ecological conditions and both focus exclusively on the short term, without indicating whether national policies are sustainable over longer periods of time.

The Inclusive Wealth Report 2012 presents an index that measures the wealth of nations by carrying out a comprehensive analysis of a country’s capital assets, including manufactured, human and natural capital, and its corresponding values: the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI)

The Country is in its final throes of electing once more its new set of “rulers”. While hoping that at least this instance the “democratically” elected political party would provide us with “good governance”. And within that good governance we hope to see the ideas of the Durban Declaration come to fore.

For it is important to know whether national policies are sustainable over longer periods of time. A short comparison of two manifesto of the political parties in fray are below –

The political party which many consider would emerge as the winner, has started well. At least its manifesto, speaks in simple and crisp language what it intends to do, should it be voted to power.

We will it says:

  •  Encourage Cleaner production.
  •  Cleaner fuels will be promoted so as to bring down the pollution levels particularly in the cities.
  •  The concept of pro-active ‘Carbon Credit’ will be promoted.
  •  Ecological Audit of projects and pollution indexing of cities and townships will be done on scientific basis.
  •  Pollution control mechanisms will be set up on priority basis.
  •  In addition to protecting the existing forests and wildlife reserves, the wastelands of the country  will be used for social forestry.
  •  Guidelines for Green buildings and energy efficient work places will be brought out.
  •  R&D and Human Resource Development in Environment Technology will be promoted.
  •  Set up fool proof mechanisms for protection and preservation of wild life.
  •  Encourage citizen’s participation in reforestation, agro-forestry and social forestry, through targeted programmes.
  •  Encourage and incentivize innovative garbage disposal and waste management practices, especially recycling techniques.

While the present ruling dispensation, speaks in a language which reflects the state the of play as is presently facing India, confusion; although the will to do good is there  –

  • Rigorous Environmental Appraisals Bill to set up a National Environmental Appraisal and Monitoring Authority – a professional agency to conduct rigorous and time-bound environmental appraisals and recommend clearances.
  • Revealing the Cost of Environmental Degradation Will launch “Green National Accounts” to ensure that the costs of environmental degradation are clearly reflected in India’s national accounts.
  • Conserving Water Water conservation is at the heart of our programme for agriculture and rural and urban development.
  • Harnessing Wind Power Launch a new National Mission on Wind Energy to harness the wind power.
  • Making Water Sustainable and Affordable Pricing of water must ensure that users internalise ethics of conservation. It is also imperative that it be sustainable and affordable.
  • Clean Rivers and Clean Fuel Cleaning of rivers on a large scale and providing clean cooking fuel across the country will be a priority.
  • Increasing our Solar Power Production Timely completion of Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission which will provide 20,000 MW of grid connected solar power by 2022.

While in the watch of the present dispensation, India has had to hang its head in shame on farmer suicide due to lack of water. And in several villages and town, it is a cause of celebration if electricity is received for 24 hours uninterrupted. It can not be denied that this very government in its previous avatar, had given India its proud moment in the shape of NAPCC.

It’s architect, a finance wizard so respected and loved by this Country. It had made possible a chance to boost the economy by ₹64000 Crore. A dream which spawned many Renewable & sustainable building enterprise, which are in throes of pain due to paralysis of action today.

The very failure of sustainable capitalism gave rise to crony capitalism and the Coal scandal et al. Once more the environment suffered because of the myopic vision of those who were supposed to take hard decisions to save the Planet, India lost yet another leadership opportunity to change the tide of climate change.

Therefore it is very important for the Citizens of India and that of the World to remind which ever political party win this election, its promise made in the manifesto. The largest political party must not be allowed to confuse us with glibly coined words like “coalition dharma” and bury all that is sustainable through rapid stride in “Development” which benefits but only a few.

Its time India finds its Economic strength through saving its Ecology. That would lead towards Sustainable Development and sustained growth thus making India the Developed Nation.

 

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