Skip to main content

Govt of India "dismantling" eco-protection laws, dubbing those opposing development projects as "anti-national"

By V Suresh*
June 5 is celebrated globally as World Environment Day, a day to remind everyone about the fragility of the environment caused by human agency, to sensitise people about the urgency of citizen action to counter environmental degradation and to get all of to rededicate ourselves to preserving nature and wildlife, protecting environment, safeguarding natural resources and persuade and push governments globally to halt environmentally destructive, polluting and hazardous industries, development projects and uncontrolled urbanization.
The theme for this year's `World Environment Day' is "Connecting People with Nature". This year, we in India, have experienced the worst effects of climate change – we've had some of the hottest periods in the last many decades; many regions are experiencing continuous droughts; there's no predictability about rains and seasonal variations are an pressing reality we can no longer ignore. While many countries in the world are gearing themselves to counter the negative effects of climate change, many policy makers and researchers in India are denying the reality of climate change!
Across the country, many regions are suffering from unimaginable pollution of air, water and land caused by highly polluting industries. Environmental oversight and monitoring bodies like the Pollution Control Boards and other expert bodies have majorly failed citizens and nature, by persistently allowing polluters to escape liability and responsibility for running environmentally destructive, hazardous and polluting industries.
As though this were not enough, the Central Government has been steadily following a policy of dismantling all environment protection legislations on the plea that existing environment laws are proving a hindrance for international industries and capital to come to India.
What is worse, any community, group, organisation or person opposing a development project or an industry on environmental grounds is dubbed to be `anti-national', `anti-development' and an enemy of growth. The end of this logic is dubbing environmentalists and the green movement as 'eco-terrorists' carrying the real threat of persecution and prosecution.
Numerous examples exist including the coercive action against Greenpeace soon after the present central government came to power in 2014. Ironically the State, irrespective of whether it is the Central or State government, instead of implementing the Constitutional mandate in Art. 48A of the constitution that "the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife in the country", governments have been competing with each other to stress that they will not tolerate any criticism or demand for accountability of existing industry or proposed industrial project.
It is in this context that we thought we should focus this issue on the state of environmental protection in the country today. Space limitations limit us to include only a few issues from across the country. We, however, hope to be able to carry more such critical articles on the state of environment in different states, in future issues. We invite readers to contribute articles. Before signing off, the articles carried in this issue make a striking point: that citizens need to be highly vigilant if we need to safeguard and protect our ecology and wild life, our commons and resources.
For more than at any time before, all these are under tremendous attack by forces of industrialization and urbanization. While the challenges are huge, and the difficulties seemingly insurmountable, we need to derive strength and inspiration from the people of Dhinkia and its surrounding villages in Odisha who steadfastly opposed the POSCO steel project despite massive police action, which company after facing unrelenting people's struggle for 12 long years decided to drop the steel plant project.
The successful struggle of the Dongria-Kondhs against the Vedanta project in Niyamgiri and the victory of the villagers against the proposed nuclear power project in Mithi Virdi area in Gujarat are stories to inspire (Ironically, the victory of residents of Mithi Virdi has been offset by the invitation of the AP government to set up the same nuclear power plant of Westinghouse in Kovada in AP. But that represents the actual nature of environmental threat across the country). We salute all the brave people who have fought and are still fighting for environmental justice and human rights.
---
*Editor, PUCL Bulletin (June 2017)

Comments

TRENDING

Allow international human rights observers, media to access Kashmir: US lawmakers

Counterview Desk
In a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, two members of the American Congress, Pramila Jayapal and James McGovern, raising "significant concerns" about what they call "humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & Kashmir”, quoting "credible reports" from journalists and advocates on the ground" have said that "the Indian government has detained thousands of people with no recourse, imposed de facto curfews on residents' and cut off internet and telephone access in the region.”

Rescind Gates Foundation award to Modi, demand three Nobel Peace laureates

Counterview Desk
In a major boost to those opposing the award to the Gates Foundation’s proposed to be awarded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire (1976), Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman (2011) and Shirin Ebadi (2003), have in an open letter called upon Milinda and Bill Gates to withdraw their decision, stating Modi is allegedly involved in human rights violations.

US Kashmiri diaspora body: World leaders, UN 'not acting', India enjoys total impunity

Counterview Desk
Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly session, to begin on September 17 in New York, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, secretary-general of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, a non-profit organization based in Ohio, US, claiming to focus on providing information on Kashmir, has regretted that despite "violent" behaviour of Indian authorities in Kashmir, they enjoy "total impunity" across the world.

Jharkhand riverine terminal: 485 families 'displaced', lose land, livelihood in Sahibgunj

Counterview Desk
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposes to inaugurate on Thursday India’s second riverine Multi-Modal terminal (MMT) at Sahibganj in Jharkhand, built at a cost of Rs 290 crore reportedly in a record time of about two years, several civil rights organizations* have said that the government has failed to address the high-profile terminal’s social and environmental concerns.

Now clampdown on rally, arrest of pro-freedom activists in Pak-occupied Kashmir

Counterview Desk
In a fresh evidence, international human rights organizations are not just confining their attention on the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), whose special status was taken away by the Government of India in early August, leading to an unprecedented clampdown on the region. They have simultaneously begun focusing on the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), where the situation is said to be worsening.
Thus, the International Human Rights Council ((IHRC) Hong Kong (HK), a top human rights organisation, said to be working towards to the promotion peace, equality, fundamental rights and social justice “as enunciated in the UN Human Rights Charter and other instruments of human rights”, has noted now a new wave of independence movement has struck PoK.  With offices in US, UK, Switzerland and Hong Kong, and having Kirity Roy and Lenin Raghuvanshi as IHRC office bearers from India, in a statement, it has claimed that on September 7 one of the biggest pro-Independenc…

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canals, work for 13,889 km ha…

US Air Force expert smells regional security threat following Chandrayaan mission

Counterview Desk
A United States Air Force expert, writing on India’s Chandrayaan -2 mission, has expressed the apprehension that Indian moon probe’s “failure” won’t stop an Asian space race that “threatens regional security.” Affiliated with the US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Wendy Whitman Cobb, who is Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, believes like other space powers, India may be “seeking to improve its technology”, but advances can “also bring greater security concerns.”
Currently, admits Cobb, “These efforts have been primarily civilian and peaceful in nature.” However, India’s turn toward the military uses of space, so much so that lately it has been developing its own military satellites providing services such as remote sensing, tracking and communications “with greater frequency” has begun to “concern” the neighbours.
In her disclosure statement to an article published in the e-journal “The Conversation” Cobb, however, states that whatever…

South Gujarat wastewater carrying pipeline damaged, 'harming' farmlands

The pipeline carrying industrial wastewater to the Gulf of Khambhat from Jhagadia industrial estate in Bharuch district has been found to have damaged for the eighth time over the last one and a half months. The crack, says a local environmental organisation, has occurred at Hansot, endangering agricultural farms.

Historic Chikhalda, temples, mosques submerged, activists 'rescue' Gandhi idol

By Medha Patkar
The first farmer of Asia was born in Chikhalda, if one is to believe archaeological researchers. A historic village, 50 percent of its population is of Hindus and 50 percent of Muslims, yet it has always remained peaceful. Chikhalda has struggled to save water, land and people along Narmada river.

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are about 180 units in in the to…