It’s that time of the year again. Climate change talks are heating up, with the next conference of parties scheduled in Durban in end-November. There is heat but no light. The negotiations are stuck despite the clear signs of climate change: dangerous and potentially catastrophic extreme weather events.
Not much is expected in Durban, except the usual shadow-boxing. The European Union is leading the pack of climate champions. It wants the world to fast track negotiations for a single, legally binding treaty on cutting emissions. It does not say (loudly) that its real plan is to junk the Kyoto Protocol, which demands that industrialised countries cut emissions marginally, roughly 6 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2008-2012. The agreement in this Protocol is that rich countries, major historical and current emitters, go first, creating ecological and economic space for the developing world to grow. In time, the rest would follow. To facilitate actions in the developing and emerging world, technology and funds would be committed. All this done well would lead to a real deal. But it was not to be.
The US and its allies walked out of the Kyoto Protocol and now EU wants to dump it as well. It finds it difficult to meet its commitments to reduce emissions domestically.
At Durban, once again the stage is set for a dud act. EU will advocate climate action and its proposal for a single, legally binding treaty will get predictable responses. The US, the world’s biggest climate renegade, which pulls all strings, will oppose the proposal. Its objective is to do little at home, but most importantly, not to be made responsible for taking action based on contribution to the problem. It wants the distinction between the past and present polluters to be removed. It wants no discussion on a legal instrument. The other big polluting guns—Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada—will stand behind the US.
In the Durban-script the roles for the rest of the actors have also been written. The Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), which is rightfully angry over inaction, will go with the EU-designed approach. It will see no choice but to back EU’s proposal, even as it knows the stalemate will only prolong. On the other hand, China and India will side with the US and join the deniers. The rest, with small differences, will wait for the game to play out.
The host, South Africa, will want a deal in its city. What will this be? This country more than any other reflects the climate dilemma: to act or not to act? It has very high per capita emissions—almost equal to Europe’s —but it is yet to share economic benefits and energy access with its majority poor. It is dependent on coal mining and exports, which it cannot jeopardise. But it wants to play the gracious host and somehow get its basic friends—the coalition of the emerging polluters, Brazil, India and China—to dine the last supper. Brazil may play along; it hosts the next big environment summit and would want to look good. But China and India will know too much is at stake. Once they accept a single instrument, they will have to take costly action, with no resources.
The die is not even cast. But the end game is known.
So what can change the outcome? I believe there is no other way but that the developing world regroups and takes leadership. Our world is the worst hit. We do not need to be preached about the pain of climate change. We know it. This leadership will require making tough demands. It will mean demanding drastic emission reduction targets for the rich world. But it is equally important that our world does not hide behind the intransigence of the US. Our world must explain that it is already doing much to reduce emission intensity of its growth—growth of renewables in China, reduction of deforestation in Brazil and energy efficiency in India. It can and will do more. However, the high costs of transition to low-carbon growth must be paid for. This leadership must be firm on principles of climate justice and effective action.
This approach, I know, will be scoffed at and derided as being impractical. It is partly because the non-governmental groups following climate negotiations mirror the divide in the world. One half, the followers of the US and its grouping, will say this stance will jeopardise their democratic government and bring back the dreaded Republicans—Neanderthals who do not believe climate change is real. The other group, followers of EU and its grouping, will say this is good in words, but will not lead to effective action. In Durban they will want a deal, at whatever costs.
But their hedging will hide the one truth that needs to be revealed: most of the low-hanging fruit—easy options to reduce emissions—have already been picked in the climate-threatened world. This fact cannot be more inconvenient coming at a time when the rich world is faced with a double-digit recession; the euro-zone is threatened; and people are worked up against austerity measures.
The Durban deal (like its predecessors Copenhagen and Cancun) will be bad for all if not based on accepting the hard truths of climate change. It is time we grew up.
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To follow the buzz prior to Durban, do see our events section below.
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स्विटज़रलैंड में यूरोपीय परमाणु अनुसंधान केंद्र (सर्न) और इटली के वैज्ञानिकों ने घोषणा की है कि उन्हें ऐसे पार्टिकल मिले हैं जो प्रकाश की गति से तेज चलते हैं. वैज्ञानिक ख़ुद भी चकित हुए. पिछले दिनों वैज्ञानिकों ने घोषणा की कि उन्हें न्यूट्रिनो नामक पार्टिकल मिले हैं, जो प्रकाश की गति से भी तेज चलते हैं. अगर यह कहीं और से भी साबित हो जाता है तो आइंस्टाइन का सापेक्षता का सिद्धांत ग़लत साबित हो जाएगा. स्विटजरलैंड की सर्न प्रयोगशाला और इटली की प्रयोगशाला में हुए प्रयोग के दौरान यह तथ्य सामने आया. पाया गया कि ये छोटे सब-एटॉमिक पार्टिकल 3,00,00,06 किलोमीटर प्रति सेकेंड की गति से जा रहे हैं जो प्रकाश की गति से क़रीब छह किलोमीटर प्रति सेकेंड ज़्यादा है. इस प्रयोग के प्रवक्ता भौतिकविद् एंटोनियो एरेडिटाटो ने कहा, यह नतीजा हमारे लिए भी आश्चर्यजनक है. हम न्यट्रिनो की गति नापना चाहते थे, लेकिन हमें ऐसा अद्भुत नतीजा मिलने की उम्मीद नहीं थी. हमने क़रीब छह महीने जांच, परीक्षण, नियंत्रण और फिर से जांच करने के बाद यह घोषणा की है. न्यूट्रिनो प्रकाश की तुलना में 60 नैनो सेकेंड जल्दी पहुंचे. इस प्रयोग में शामिल वैज्ञानिकों ने इसके नतीजों के बारे में नपे-तुले शब्दों में बात की. सर्न के निदेशक सर्गियो बेर्टोलुची ने कहा, अगर इस नतीजे की पुष्टि हो जाती है तो भौतिकी को देखने का हमारा नज़रिया बदल जाएगा. न्यूट्रिनो पर कोई आवेश नहीं होता और ये इतने छोटे होते हैं कि इनका द्रव्यमान भी अभी-अभी ही पता चल सका है. इनकी संख्या तो बहुत होती है, लेकिन इनका पता लगाना मुश्किल है. इन्हें भुतहा कण भी कहा जाता है और ये न्यूक्लियर फ्यूजन के कारण पैदा होते हैं. इस प्रयोग के तहत वैज्ञानिकों ने स्विटज़रलैंड और इटली की प्रयोगशालाओं के बीच प्रकाश पुंज फेंका. दोनों प्रयोगशालाओं के बीच 730 किलोमीटर की दूरी है. पार्टिकल फिजिक्स की दुनिया में इस घोषणा से सनसनी फैल गई है. फ्रांस में भौतिकी संस्थान के पिएरे बिनेट्यूरी ने कहा, सामान्य सापेक्षता और विशेष सापेक्षता दोनों ही सिद्धांतों पर इससे सवाल खड़ा हुआ है. भौतिकविद् एंटोनियो जिचिषी कहते हैं, अगर आप प्रकाश की गति को छोड़ दें तो विशेष सापेक्षता का सिद्धांत तो नाकाम हो जाएगा.
साभार- चौथि दुनिया
Gangajal Nature Foundation’s3rd National Documentary, Photography and Essay Competition
The Winners have been announced!
First Prize : Ghanshyam Kahar, Vadodara, Gujrat (Entry Name : DI IT…!) View
Second Prize : Dimple Kumar I. Pancholi, Vadodara, Gujrat (Entry Name : FARMING IS NESSASRY FOR MOTHER EARTH)View
Third Prize : Narayan D. Patel, Vadodara, Gujrat (Entry Name : SAVE TREES FOR OUR PLANNET)View
First Consolation Price : Santosh Deodar, Kalyan, Maharashtra (Entry Name : PRESERVING DREAM)
Second Consolation Price : Hitesh Parmar, Vadodara, Gujrat (Entry Name : GREEN EARTH)
First Prize :Amol Sitaphale, Sholapur, Maharashtra (Entry Name : GREEN EARTH)
Second Prize : Bhagyshri Sontakke, Kalyan, Maharashtra (Entry Name : HAREET VASUNDHARA)
All- pervasive corruption in the country has reduced most national rivers to gutters. The sacred Ganga which traditionally carried “nectar” now transports sewage and toxic effluents. This has occurred over time from 1985, when the Government initiated the exercise of cleaning up the dirty waters of Ganga. In spite of the huge expenditure, the river has become a bigger conveyor of filth. And the Government is again working on it, with more funds to be expended. It is my contention that more expenditure will only increase the number of gutters. Allowing rivers to degrade to sewers is the biggest form of corruption. And the result of corruption can only be rectified with a disciplined effort, not just money. To restore the status of Ganga as benevolent mother from its current gutter, like state, a disciplined and scientific scheme is required for her to again carry “holy water” and sustain livelihood. It is therefore imperative to begin by defining a River Policy.
Starting from September’10, we have traversed the entire length of the Ganga to understand the problems and issues first-hand, conducting several workshops and meetings with all stake-holders. A proforma of the River Policy has emerged from this exercise. The core has been formulated by dialogue with people across the nation, and has gained wide consensus. This widely accepted proforma prepared by the people will aid the formulation of a national policy for all rivers. With this in mind, we are convening a meeting of all people country‐wide who value rivers to finalise the River Policy in Allahabad on 23/24 September,’11. Accommodation and food will be provided by the UP Jal Biradari and activists from Allahabad.
This meeting is being co-ordinated by Shri Brijendra Pratap Singh (099362 37855),
email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Program details will be available by email:
It is our earnest request that you join us to contribute in the making of the national
Fred Magdoff is co-author, with John Bellamy Foster, of the recently released What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism: A Citizen’s Guide to Capitalism and the Environment . He is professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont. Scott Borchert works for Monthly Review Press .
What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism is a short, accessible introduction to the ecological crisis that is intended for a wide audience — why did you decide to write a book like this, and why now?
In the fall of 2008 I attended a conference where discussion of the environment was prominent, although not the only subject. As people talked about the variety of problems facing the earth and humanity I had the feeling that they were constantly “beating around the bush.” So when it was my time to talk, I discarded my notes dealing with ecology and agriculture, and said that I thought a central issue was being ignored. I explained that I was going to speak about “the bush” that I thought everyone was beating around — that is, the capitalist system and how in its very essence it is destructive of the environment.
This approach was a real stumbling block for most people there. They were very interesting and innovative people — many would be considered “out of the box” thinkers. But, I realized that they, and those in the environmental movement in general, were unable to think outside of capitalism. It appears inconceivable to most of the people I spoke with that somehow there might be a future economic system that wasn’t capitalist.
It seemed to me that this was the critical issue. I thought that, if they fully understood the role of the normal workings of the capitalist system in causing environmental havoc, people with such great concern for the environment might begin to understand that another social/economic/political system is not just possible, but essential.
Most people will agree that we’re facing a number of environmental problems, from climate change to ocean acidification to species extinction, but how serious is the situation, really?
The world’s environmental problems rise to the level of a major crisis. This is certainly the most devastating crisis that has been faced by the world’s people. There is so much damage being done to essentially all aspects of the environment that local, regional, and global ecosystems are being degraded. We are already seeing severe effects of climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, soil erosion, and so on.
Just to give a few examples: extreme weather events have occurred with greater frequency; yields of a number of crops have been decreased by high temperature, droughts, and floods; the drinking water for many people is contaminated with pesticides and high nitrate levels; people have had to move because of melting permafrost in the far north and the melting of glaciers that once provided reliable water in the dry season. As the ocean level rises, low-lying coastal agricultural land is becoming contaminated with salt — this is already occurring in regions such as Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.
When all of the effects of environmental degradation are added together, the only conclusion one can come to is that the earth’s systems that support our existence as well as that of many other species are threatened. Millions of people are already suffering various effects of environmental degradation.
What are some of the proposed solutions to dealing with the ecological crisis, and why do you argue that they are insufficient?
There is no shortage of ideas about what to do — live more simply, purchase “green” products, purchase carbon credits to offset the global warming effects of an airplane trip, blast the atmosphere with particles to reflect sunlight, develop systems for taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it deep underground, impose a tax on all fossil fuels (a carbon tax), etc.
Some of these make more sense than others. Others have unknown consequences. However, they all give the illusion that it is possible to solve the ecological crisis without confronting capitalism as a system. And it is capitalism’s necessity to grow the economy forever and the single overriding goal of obtaining more and more profits that are at the heart of the environmental problems we face.
Why should the environmental movement be concerned with economic issues at all?
The big question — that environmentalists usually don’t ask — is why all of these assaults on the global ecosystem are happening. They are usually concerned with one issue or another, global warming, chemical pollution, soil degradation, etc. But why are they all occurring? Without digging into how the economic system actually functions in the real world (not theoretically), it isn’t possible to answer the question.
There are some environmentalists that are concerned with economic issues. In fact, there are professors who consider themselves “ecological economists,” and there is even an institute of ecological economics. But these people, some of whom are very creative thinkers, are concerned with putting a price on what they call “ecological services” — such as the role wetlands play in cleaning runoff water and providing habitat for wildlife — and suggesting ways that might make certain processes or products with less damage to the environment.
But they have no real critique of the system itself and there is no consideration given to alternative ways to organize and run an economy.
What is the general attitude of the environmentalist movement toward your view, i.e. a systemic, anti-capitalist point of view? Have attitudes been changing in recent years?
Over the last decade there are increasing numbers of environmentalists who do understand that capitalism is the critical issue. This is certainly a major step forward. However, most of these people call for what is essentially tinkering with the system — better regulations, more government support for alternatives to fossil fuel energy, trying to factor in the costs of damage done to the environment into the prices of products — while keeping the essence of capitalism intact.
Why not try to reform capitalism along “green” or “sustainable” lines, or aim for a “zero growth” economy?
Truly “green” or “sustainable capitalism” is an oxymoron. The very heart of the system — production of goods and services to make profits, which propels growth — excludes the possibility of capitalism being anything other than a system that has environmental destruction as a by-product.
Of course, it’s possible to have such things as better environmental regulations and use of fewer toxic chemicals. We now have sewage treatment plants to treat the waste of cities and the rivers are therefore cleaner.
But the need to grow — to produce and sell more and more stuff while recognizing no boundaries — and having profits as the driving force and overwhelming goal of production means the system will always be environmentally destructive.
Zero growth is an economic disaster in a capitalist economy. At this time (August 2011), the United States economy has been growing for more than two years since the official end of the Great Recession. But it’s growing too slowly to provide enough jobs to re-employ the fired workers and get anywhere near full employment.
We have some 28 million people either unemployed (14 million), underemployed, or so discouraged that they have stopped looking for work (another 14 million between them). Sustained high rates of economic growth are needed to get anywhere near what might be considered full employment.
The only way that zero economic growth can be consistent with satisfying people’s basic needs — physical and non-physical — is to have a different economic/social system in which production is done only for the purpose of providing these needs to the population instead of production for the purpose of selling stuff (regardless of its social value) and perpetually making profits.
Who are the kinds of people you hope will read this book, and what effect do you hope it will have?
Our hope is that this book will have an impact on people who already understand how serious the environmental problems are for humans as well as many other species. These people don’t need to be convinced about the environmental disaster — although there is enough information in the book to bring a deeper understanding of the issues to all who read it — but rather need to grasp how what is happening is connected to the basic way our economic system functions. It’s not an aberration — but rather a natural outcome.
You’re also the co-author of The ABCS of the Economic Crisis (with Michael D. Yates), which is a short introduction to the causes of the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession – what is the relationship between that book and this new one?
Both books are aimed at a general audience and written to be accessible to everyone interested in these subjects. Both are also in the tradition of Monthly Review magazine as well as Monthly Review Press books — they try to get to the root of issues. This means putting events into context to help people understand not only what problems or issues are occurring, but, more importantly, why they occurring and what might be done about them.
How are movements and governments in other countries responding to the ecological crisis, compared to in the United States? What can people in the U.S. and other core capitalist countries do?
There is a huge amount of activity around the world over concern with, and how to improve, the environment. One indication of this concern was the 2010 World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Bolivia. Some 30,000 people attended representing many countries, organizations, and indigenous groups. Many of those attending were from organizations engaged in actions around environmental justice and stopping the pillage of the earth as well as helping people cope with the consequences. One of the people I met was from the Alaska tribal council and told of helping to move an entire native Alaska village because sea level increases and melting permafrost under their village made another location necessary.
There is much that can be done now, in the U.S. and other core capitalist countries. For example, some groups are pushing for a carbon tax with money returned on an equal per capita basis. This would slow down energy use without penalizing the poor who tend to use lower amounts of energy than the wealthy — they would receive more money than the extra they pay for the tax.
Just a few days ago people were arrested outside the White House while protesting the proposed building of a pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta Canada to Texas . Recovery of oil from the tar sands is an especially damaging process.
There is no lack of organizations that are doing meaningful things to help the environment. What there is, however, is a lack of groups and a movement that understand that the environmental problems are deeply embedded in the economy and that a different way of interacting with the economy, other people, and the environment is necessary.
Science of Climate and Changing Public Policy:
Realities and theories
October 14, 2011
(Proposed programme as of 15 July 2011)
Liberty Institute in collaboration with Mumbai University plan to hold this capacity building conference providing an opportunity to Indian and international scholars and policy makers to exchange ideas, and learning.
The conference may cover following themes and related issues.
Theme 1: Science of climate change
Theme 2: Extreme weather in the Indian subcontinent
Theme 3: Changing sea level (regional & global)
Theme 4: Monsoon variability and its impact on agriculture
Theme 5: Climate of discourse and India’s policy options
About the Conference
Over the past few years, the scientific debate has intensified on the nature and possible causes underlying changing climate. Questions have arisen over the significance of man-made green house gases in stimulating global warming. Science progresses through such rational criticism and objective discourse, and not through consensus invoked by any authority.
The United Nation’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, was formed in 1988, to provide an assessment of global climate change. IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) released in 2007, linked the warming over the past 30 yrs, about 0.7 C, to anthropogenic green house gases, particularly CO2. At the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries have been debating possible carbon emission targets to minimize future adverse impact of changing climate on human societies.
However, over the last few years, a number of errors have been found in the AR4. Also, a number of plausible alternative theories have emerged explaining possible changes in climate. Consequently, there is a growing need to reassess the policy options and the economic impact of climate. The government of India too has taken a number of initiatives to improve understanding of the underlying science and policy options.
In view of the upcoming annual UNFCCC meeting in South Africa, this conference could contribute to enriching the public discussion. The theme also reflects the relevance of the topics in the Indian context. For instance the importance of monsoon in India and its impact on agricultural development cannot be overstated. Likewise, with thousands of kilometers of coast line, any possibility of changes in sea level needs to be seriously assessed.
The purpose of this international conference is to initiate a fresh discussion on the different dimension of the debate on global warming. The aim is to build a movement, a network of scientists, economists, policymakers, elected representatives and concerned citizens who believe in sound science and economic policy options. The goal is to limit the rampant fear mongering, exaggerated claims and media hype, which are casting a shadow on rational assessment of climate and objectively shaping policy, if any, to address the possible impact of changes in climate.
The conference is open to academics, researchers, policy makers, government officials, media, concerned citizens and civil society activists. There will be invited presentations as well as solicited presentations from scholars & researchers who may be interested in presenting a paper under any of the broad themes.
For young scholars in India (below 35 years) there is an opportunity to participate in this conference. Those interested, are invited to submit an abstract (300) words on any of the themes and related issues, by August 31 2011. If the abstract is accepted, then the scholars will be invited to submit a paper (not exceeding 3000 words) by September 15. To facilitate the participation of a few selected young scholars, a grant will be available to meet travel and accommodation, providing an opportunity to share ideas with international experts.
The speakers at the conference may agree that it is time to reconsider the science and economics of global warming. However, they may not all agree on the causes, extent, or consequences of climate change, or what should be done. The scientists and other experts are invited to share their research and engage in a reasoned and respectful debate with others.
In 2009, the Heartland Institute, a non-profit organization in the USA, had published the “Climate Change Reconsidered”, a 800-page report put together by an independent panel of scientists, under the banner of Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). This report is perhaps the most comprehensive response to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The next report of the NIPCC is expected to be released in 2013.
In 2010, Liberty Institute in New Delhi, in partnership with the Heartland Institute, reprinted the NIPCC report “Climate Change Reconsidered” for wider dissemination in India. In addition, the executive summary of the report has been translated in to different Indian languages – Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telegu. These may help contribute to a more rational discourse on climate change.
A number of scholars from around the world are expected to participate in the international conference on Asian Marine Geology at the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, October 10-14, 2011. We hope to invite some of them to the public forum in Mumbai, to share their thoughts on this challenging issue.
Initially, the committee may constitute of the following, and others may be invited as well.
• Mugdha Karnik, sociologist, professor at University of Mumbai
• Ranjan R Kelkar, meteorologist, former director general of the Indian Meteorology Department
• Madhav Khandekar, meteorologist, former research scientist at Environment Canada, and an expert reviewer of IPCC’s assessment report 2007
• Barun Mitra, policy advocate, director of Liberty Institute, New Delhi
International Advisory Board:
• Nils-Axel Morner, former president of INQUA Commission on Global Sea Level Changes, Sweden
• Nils-Finn Munch-Petersen, anthropologist, senior expert, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
• Willie Soon, astrophysicist, Harvard University, USA
For more information –
Julian L. Simon Centre
C-4/8, Sahyadri, Plot 5, Sector 12, Dwarka
New Delhi 110078. India
The sight on television was heartbreaking: children lying in rows in the searing sun to be human shields against the takeover of their land for Korean giant POSCO’s mega bucks project. Facing them were armed police sent by the state government to assist in the operation.
The steel plant and port project, located in a coastal district of Odisha, has been in a six-year-long eyeball-to-eyeball battle with people whose land will be acquired. Now with clearances coming through the state government wants the land acquired, at whatever cost it seems. It has put a financial offer on the table, which even pays for encroached government land. It believes this is a lifetime offer people should now accept. Move on, let the project be built and precious foreign investment come to the shores of this poor state.
The question we need to ask once again is why people who look so obviously poor are fighting this project. Why won’t they accept the financial compensation, which gives them an opportunity to start a new life and spare their children the drudgery of growing betel nut? Is it growth and development versus environment or just uninformed, illiterate people or even politically motivated agitators? Is it really as simple as that?
I am afraid not.
POSCO is about growth versus growth. People here are poor but they know that this project will make them poorer. This is the fact that we in the modern economy find difficult to comprehend. This is an area of betel farming done on mostly forestland belonging to the state. Of the 1,620 ha needed for the project 90 per cent, or 1440 ha, is this contested forestland.
When the project site was selected, government did not consider it would have to pay compensation for this land—it was encroached upon by the people, and government would simply take it back for the steel giant. But it was forestland and the people who lived there had cultivated on it for as long as they could remember. This then raised the tricky matter of the conditions under the Forest Rights Act that require people to give their consent to the project. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests overruled its own dissenting committee to say it would have to trust the state government’s version that all procedures were followed in determining that people in these villages were not entitled to this right to decide because they were not traditional forest dwelling community.
With this sorted, environmental and forest clearance was granted. Land acquisition for the project could proceed. But people who were not asked still said no.
Why? After all, the state government says it has accommodated all demands in its offer. It has agreed to limit the acquisition of private dwellings and village land. People will still have homes; they will only lose livelihood. But even that will be compensated. It has agreed to pay for the loss of the use of forestland, even though technically people have no rights over it. The farmers will be paid, according to field reports from Odisha, some Rs 28.75 lakh for each ha of “encroached” betel farmland. Then the package includes provision for payment to wage earners, who will lose livelihood when betel farms go. The severance pay has a sweetener. The government will pay a stipend, limited to a year, for the period people look for “jobs”. In addition, the 460-odd families who lose homes will be resettled in colonies. So why is the generous offer being rejected?
Is it only because of the obduracy of a few people, namely the leaders of one gram panchayat, Dhinkia? This village has locked out the administration for the past three years. All roads to it are barricaded. It is a mutiny, fierce and determined. This village holds out alone because its gram panchayat covers some 55 per cent of the land earmarked for the steel plant, its captive power plant and its private port project. Two other gram panchayats are involved, but their loss is smaller and their leadership is not so strong. But my colleague who visited the residents of the villages waiting in a transit camp for their new houses to be built and handed over, found discontent brewing. Where is our livelihood, people asked? What will we do?
These questions are at the core of the battles raging across the country wherever land is being taken for development but people are losing livelihoods. In yet-to-be POSCO-land, betel farming earns Rs 10-17.5 lakh per ha per year. The compensation is equal to two to three years of earning. In addition, there is the earning from paddy, fish ponds and fruit trees. This land-based economy is employment-intensive. The iron and steel plant, however vital for the nation’s economic growth, cannot provide local employment. For one, local people are not “employable” in such a plant. Two, this modern state-of-the-art plant needs only a limited number of people in its operations.
POSCO is then about growth versus growth. It is just we who have discounted this economy of the land for so long in our understanding of what works and what matters. It is just we who have forgotten that development cannot be development if it takes lives of the very people for whom it is meant. The message is clear: if we want their land, we will have to give them a life.
by- Sunita Narain
Down To Earth
The Ficus Religosa (commonly known as Peepal tree in India) is one of the best known trees of India; it is planted in most villages of the country, and is held in high esteem by the people of India. Hindus and Buddhists hold the tree in veneration. The name religosa has reference to the tree often found near temples or shrines.
This is a tree that reaches very large proportions, it is in fact about the largest of our indigenous trees. The leaves are generally pendulous, that is , hanging down, and are such that a slight breeze sets them all quivering and trembling. There can hardly be a more peaceful scene than a peasant, at the end of a long day of toil in the fields, sitting under the village Peepal and being lulled to sleep by the rustling of its leaves.
Every villager in India knows that the Peepal has a very long life, compared with other common trees. There are records, however, of a tree taken to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from Northern India in 288 B.C.; at the end of the 18th century the tree was still doing well; in 1852 it was, not just supposed, but known to be 2147 years old. There seems to have been a tradition in Sri Lanka that the ruling dynasty would last in power as long as the sacred Peepal (Ficus Religosa) remained alive. It was according to tradition, under this tree that Gautam Buddha, sat in meditation at Bodh Gaya in Bihar State of India.; unfortunately the original tree has disappeared, and is now replaced by a successor. There is a saying that it gives more oxygen than any other trees. It is an important host plant for the summer brood of lac insect. An aqueous extract of bark shows antibacterial activity.
Propogation of the Peepal is very easy, it may be done by seeds or by cuttings; natural regeneration takes place through the seeds scattered by birds. Cuttings, even large pieces, can be used with advantage. Peepal is good avenue trees, it is also used as fodder, fuel, fruit and medicinal. Protein concentration is high in Peepal trees. Hence integration of peepal tree with agricultural crops could play an important role in meeting the fodder requirements of animals. Peepal not only produce fodder, but also balance climatic conditions, control soil erosion, improve soil structure and its fertility. It is also dust and sound absorbent. It can also grow on highly degraded and poor soils and still provide useful out put for animal food, fuel wood and timber. Peepal tree is also known as pollution indicators. In recent study, researchers observed that pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and dust choke the roots, steam, flowers and fruits of the plants. Leaves are particularly sensitive to pollution. Earlier studies have shown a quantitative decrease in the chlorophyll A and B pigments in peepal tree by air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide.
Peepal trees have many medicinal uses. Juice extracted from the leaves is used for eardrops. The bark is used to heal inflammations of the neck and glandular swellings. Chewing the roots of a peepal tree is said to help prevent gum disease.
Its fruit is laxative which promotes digestion and checks vomiting. Its ripe fruits are good for the foul taste, thirst and heart diseases. The powered fruit is taken for Asthma. Its seeds have proved useful in urinary troubles. The leaves are used to treat constipation.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi