Sustainable environmental practices: Stepping back from an ecological abyss

Source: The post is based on the article “Stepping back from an ecological abyss” published in The Hindu on 17th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Environment and Bio-diversity: Conservation.

Relevance: About the sustainable environmental practices.

News: Chipko, Silent Valley, Narmada, Koel-Karo movements inspired many sustainable environmental practices. The government too responded with a series of forest, wildlife, environment-related laws and policies. It is now a time to analyse the phase of these sustainable environmental practices.

What is the status of environmental health in India?

Water: According to NITI Aayog, “600 million people in India face high to extreme water stress… with nearly 70% of water being contaminated; India is placed at 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index”.

Air: Four hundred and eighty million Indians face the world’s most extreme air pollution levels.

Land degradation and desertification: According to the Indian Space Research Organisation, over 30% of India’s land is facing issues such as degradation and desertification.

Overall, the World Bank reported in 2013 that India was losing 5.7% of its GDP due to environmental damage.

Read more: Just Fine – On amending environmental laws
What is the reason for damage to sustainable environmental practices?

Obsession with economic growth: Despite growing evidence of GDP being a very poor indicator of human well-being exploitation of natural elements continue to be ignored or mauled.

According to the former Planning Commission, over 60 million people have been physically displaced by ‘development’ projects in the last few decades with very poor rehabilitation. Amongst them, a disproportionately high percentage of these are Adivasis and Dalits.

Favour corporate access: The government favour corporate access to land and natural resources. For instance, the latest proposals to amend forest and environment laws, and the Environment Impact Assessment notification.

Building massive physical infrastructure: For instance, the 2022-23 Budget has an allocation for highways alone that is 40 times greater than the Budget of the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

The economic ‘reforms’ in 1991: With greater integration into the global economy, the entry of multinational corporations into every sector, and increasing exports of natural materials, the issue of environmental sustainability was relegated to the background.

Less fund for climate action: India still provide abysmally low budgets for adaptation measures. The Climate Action Plan got a meagre ₹30 crore in the 2022-23 Budget.

Read more: Can synthetic biology offer solutions to environmental challenges?
What are a few innovative and successive sustainable environmental practices?

-Community-led ecotourism, such as homestays in Uttarakhand and Ladakh and Sikkim, has combined increased earnings with ecologically sensitive visitation.

-Women farmers of the Deccan Development Society have demonstrated how organic, rainfed farming with traditional seed diversity can provide full food security and sovereignty.

-Handloom weavers in Kachchh (Gujarat) have shown how dignified, creative livelihoods can be revived based on organic Kala cotton and a mix of traditional and new skills.

What can be done to improve sustainable environmental practices?

Give priority to India’s crafts: India’s crafts have sustained several hundred million people in the past. They can do so again if the traditional and new skills in textiles, footwear, cleaning agents, furniture, architecture and construction, water-related technologies, and a range of household items are given priority.

Link programmes and environmental outcome: As advocated by the UNEP, public transportation, organic farming, land and water regeneration, ecotourism, etc can significantly enhance job creation. Linking programmes such as the MGNREGA with such activities will boost sustainable environmental practices.

Fundamental restructuring of economy and governance: This means a shift away from large infrastructure and industrialisation, replacing mega-corporations with producer cooperatives, ensuring community rights over the ‘commons’ (land, water, forest, coasts, knowledge), etc.

This will entail respect for both human rights and the rights of nature.

Collective mobilisation: Instead of relying on government action alone, collective mobilisation of industrial workers, farmers, fishers, craftspersons, pastoralists, etc is required to fulfil India’s environmental objectives.

Print Friendly and PDF