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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/23/09

Time to rethink the development paradigm on Earth Day

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Message Bobby Ramakant
Time to rethink the development paradigm on Earth Day

Not only modern lifestyles are causing unbridled exploitation of natural resources upsetting the ecosystem and increasing global warming, but also the national policies in India related to environment are not in tune with the International mandate to save the planet Earth.

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"Corporatisation of natural resources is bad for people and environment. The impact of abusing the environment (most of which is a fall-out of corporate exploitation of natural resources) is most severely faced by tribals and the poor who are dependent on natural resources for sustaining their daily life and livelihood. Depriving them of their basic human rights is exacerbating the inequities and causing irreparable damage to the environment." said SR Darapuri, who is a retired Inspector General (IG) of the police and a prominent social activist with the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). SR Darapuri is also the Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front) candidate for Lok Sabha elections in Lucknow this year.

"We need to change our lifestyles and to come up with sustainable ways of development and living to save the planet Earth. The present development model is dangerous as it not only damages the environment irreparably but also is promoting corporate exploitation of natural resources thereby worsening the prevalent inequities for and increasing the marginalization of the poorest communities who in fact had been guarding these resources." said Arundhati Dhuru, who leads the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and who is a veteran anti-dam activist with Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

She further added it is no exaggeration to say that the ecological crisis has affected women more deeply than men. The experiences documented throughout the world have pointed out again and again that women are the worst victims of ecological deterioration since their working days have been drastically lengthened by scarcity of water, fuel and fodder, and their traditional skills and occupations have been adversely affected by new technologies in agriculture, artisanal work and marketing while new opportunities have not sufficiently developed. My contention is that tackling the ecological crisis is pertinent not only because environmental destruction is close to reaching a level where it is irreversible but it is threatening the very survival of human beings.

For example, private companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi and others are siphoning away the groundwater in making their bottled water or soft drinks. "Civilizations have been built around drop of water, we will loose our right over this most precious resource when we make water a marketable commodity," said Gurudayal Singh Sheetal of Prakritik Manav Kendrit Andolan.

Ironically the Coca Cola is holding its annual shareholder meeting in Atlanta, USA, on Earth day, possibly in its efforts to improve its corporate image of being socially responsible towards environment. "The reality is grim - the Coca Cola has knowingly deprived local communities of their right to access the most precious groundwater and has bottled it for mining profits. It has brutally, but unsuccessfully, tried to crush the resistance from the local communities around its Mehndiganj, Varanasi, bottling plant. Its claim to 'recharge' this water by rainwater harvesting hasn't been successful in even one plant. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) report recommends closure of Kaladhera Coca Cola plant to save the natural resources, but neither the government or the company has acted upon it yet," further added Gurudayal Singh Sheetal.

"Petroleum and natural gas reserves are already depleting fast and the need to find alternative, sustainable and environment-friendly sources of energy is compelling," says Arvind Murti, who is a senior social activist with NAPM in Mau. "Bio-energy, solar energy, wind energy and other sustainable and environment friendly forms of energy need to be promoted to save the planet," said Arvind Murti.

"Our living should be such as to reduce non bio-degradable garbage," said Prabha Chaturvedi, President of Exnora Lucknow. "Bio-degradable garbage should be buried in the Earth to make fertilizers," added Prabha.

Countries like Japan have committed themselves to become 'carbon zero' by 2050. India should also commit and take leadership in not only making promises but capping the irreparable damage corporations and urban lifestyles are causing to the planet.

"If sustainable ways of development and living are not evolved, it will be very difficult to sustain the prevalent kind of urban lifestyle where exploitation of natural resources goes on unabated by the nexus of private corporations and the state" said Anjali Singh, Director of Saaksham Foundation.

The overriding question is how to create a mode of production which does not depend on the expliotation of nature and labor power but which, in harmony with nature , provides for the survival needs of all.

- Bobby Ramakant
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Bobby Ramakant is a development journalist and has been writing on development issues since 1991. Health is one of the key focus areas he writes on. He is also a World Health Organization (WHO)'s WNTD awardee for 2008
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