SAVE PLANET & EARTHLINGS
By Nazuk Ahluwalia
Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans. – Eva Morens
A Down to Earth’s (DTE) fourth annual report on the state of India’s environment is an eye-opener to the innumerable issues plaguing our country as well as the current developments in line with those issues. The report is divided into 10 different chapters with articles written by distinguished experts from the field of science and environment.
The report brings to foray the trajectory of environmental discourse in the political as well as the public arena and highlights how economic growth has had a huge impact on the environment. The report advocates for harmonising discussions between growth and climate change by effectively picking up concerns as diverse as forests, sanitation, health, rural development and energy.
According to the report, budget allocations for forests in the form of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act and the 14th Finance commission are good incentives to protect forest cover but the dilution of various provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006 by different state governments to facilitate industrial activity are worrisome. Also alarming is the mismatch in demand and supply of timber and wood based products particularly due to the failure of natural forests as well as the Forest Development corporations in meeting the demand. The per hectare production from FDC Lands are as low as 0.77 cubic metre.
On the wildlife front, the Tiger got widespread attention in terms of schemes and projects but is contradicted by the nod to widen the NH7 at the Maharasthra-Madhya Pradesh border which will destroy the Pench-kanha tiger corridors. Also a paradox to India’s wildlife concern is the declaration of certain species such as nilgai and wild boar as vermins thereby allowing them to be culled.
The report highlights the urgent need to strengthen laws on illegal trading of various species which is done on the sly and is on a steady rise. Better management and judicious use of resources is the need of the hour.
Rural development with regard to the recent demonetization and its impact on farmers is a saddening account which underscores how cooperatives dependent on a cash economy are bearing the brunt. The government’s crop Insurance scheme also scored low with informal debt market being completely ignored . Its poor performance is justified by the dismal percentage of farmers opting for agri-insurance , many state’s refusal to implement the scheme fearing a high fiscal burden as well as the failure of the scheme to be implemented on an individual basis.
However, the report applauds the digital successes in the agro economy with many platforms like CropIn Technology, KrishiDoot and Trringo providing unique services to farmers in terms of monitoring farms with repect to the amount of fertilizers sprayed, weather information, procurement of animal feed, tractors on hire etc.
Climate Change analysis with regard to the rise of Donald Trump doesn’t seem positive since the United States is keen on dismantling the Clean Power Plan and boosting fossil energy production. The Paris Agreement also dismantled the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities with the onus of degradation shifting onto the developing world.
The report positively acknowledges India’s effort to leapfrog to BS VI emission standards in 2020 which wil enable effective curbs on Particulate matter emissions on both petrol and dieseal vehicles and also provide two-wheelers with on-board engine diagnostics system.
It also advocated for systematic replacement of traditional cookstoves with LPG to eliminate deadly exposure among children in rural India. India’s flood managing capacity as well as risk reduction is dismal despite the multiplication of extreme climate variability to which education is the only solution.
The public health sector is marred by a rise in the disease landscape with Maluntrition. TB, Cancer cases plummeting every year. The sanitation levels are miserable with the government focus on infrastructure and apathy to the differing needs of different villages.The government interventions in the form of Mental healthcare bill , Surrogacy regulation Bill and amendents to the maternity act are welcome initiatives nevertheless.
The report truly is an informational read on the state of the environment but its lucidity is often marred by the bombardment of facts and therefore is not for the average reader. It nevertheless brings to the forefront what it truly wishes to represent – the challenge of equitable and affordable growth.