Vol 3. Issue 2
ESG Campaigns and Events
Republic of Biodiversity: Nationwide Demand to Withdraw Proposed Amendments to Biological Diversity Act 2002
On the occasion of India’s 73rd Republic Day, ESG joined the Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI) in publicly reaffirming that India is a People’s ‘Republic of Biodiversity’. This statement comes in response to the relentless onslaught on progressive environmental legislations by the Union government – in this instance proposing comprehensive amendments to Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The Joint Statement highlights how the proposed amendments undermine sovereign control of the peoples of India over their biodiversity, allow for unfettered commercialization of biological resources by foreign multinational corporations and Indian companies, and is in stark contradiction of the democratic and participative methods forestaged enactments of previous environmental legislations.
CEJI welcomes online endorsement of the Statement which will be presented to all Union Ministers, Parliamentarians, State Governments, etc. Please share this widely in your circles and and invite people across the country to adopt this petition, demand the Government of India puts country first and withdraw this pro-corporate, anti-people, anti-biodiversity Bill immediately.
‘Undeclared Emergency’: A Conversation, On Republic Day
Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council
ESG participated in the Karnataka level Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a human rights mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) created on March 15, 2006 by the UN General Assembly resolution. The UPR reviews the fulfilment by all 192 UN member States (or countries) on their human rights obligations and commitments, as well as their progress, challenges, and needs for improvement. Ahead of national submissions due in November 2022, the Karnataka state-level discussions were coordinated by Alternative Law Forum, SICHREM and National Law School of India University during January 28-30, 2022.
Leo F. Saldanha and Bhargavi S. Rao presented an assessment of the State of Environmental Justice in Karnataka, reviewing historical developments and contemporary challenges. They also offered recommendations on how to close gaps in environmental justice now prevailing and secure the state’s ecological and socio-economic futures.
‘Shifting Bengaluru: 2031-2041’
In light of a debate that ensued on the article Revised Master Plan 2041 and its implications for Bengaluru’s future, Institute of Public Policy, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru organised a webinar on ‘Shifting Bengaluru: 2031-2041’ on February 4, 2022. The session involved Dr. Anjali Karol Mohan, Practising Urban and Regional Planner, Visiting Faculty at NLSIU, who also authored the article, and Leo Saldanha of ESG as discussants in a session moderated by Dr. A. Ravindra, Former Chief Secretary of Karnataka.
The Union Budget for the financial year 2022-23 was unveiled with much fanfare with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing that it rested on “four pillars of development”: inclusive development, productivity enhancement, energy transition and climate action. Allocating for the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) Rs 3000 crores, a Rs. 500 crores jump from the previous year, the Minister dubbed: “the green economy a “sunrise economy””, and claimed the “circular economy transition will help in productivity enhancement”, and has great potential for job creation including in sectors such as electronic waste management, management of used oil waste and toxic and hazardous industrial waste, end of use vehicles etc.” and for the convergence of these sectors with “the informal sector and extended user responsibility”.
Really, it is all business as usual. The marginal increase in the Ministry’s budget is woefully inadequate for the massive scale of public investment demanded for environmental protection and conservation. And the emphasis on promoting India as a waste management economy begs the question if there is at all any effort to radically and structurally transform our economy to work with nature, not against it.
The answer is a Big NO, as is clear from massive increase in allocation to CAPEX (capital expenditure) projects, such as expansion of road networks, whilst also stating the Government would further whittle down remaining environmental regulatory controls to a mere ritual to speed up such developments. This includes Rs. 44,605 crores allocation to the recklessly ecologically destructive Ken Betwa river linking project. Environmental investment, if any, is really in the increase in allocation from Rs. 800 crores to Rs. 3000 crores in electric vehicles, though it is unclear how this is positive if the entire cycle from mine to disposal is considered. Interestingly, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has seen a decrease in its budget from INR 7600 crores to INR 6900 crores, while allocation of 19,500 crore for manufacturing solar modules is a substantial increase. There is little attention to the disastrous consequences of favouring utility-scale solar farms such as at Mikir Bamuni in Assam.
Public enterprises overseeing mining of coal have seen an increase from INR 18,700 crore to INR 21,400 crore. In accordance with an earlier announcement by the Union Ministry of Power, Sitharaman has also announced that 5 to 7 percent of biomass pellets will be co-fired in all Indian thermal plants – an effort to counter the adverse impacts of crop burning the Minister claimed – and estimated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 38 million tonnes annually. But there aren’t any details to verify how this will be operationalised and if it would really reduce carbon footprint of thermal power plants.
Despite the massive year long farmer’s protests against the farm laws which drew widespread attention to the deep structural problems besotting farmers, the budget’s focus on agriculture is in its financialisation and technologisation. Sitharaman said a fund will be created under NABARD with blended capital for a co-investment model to finance start-ups in agriculture and rural enterprise, and the use of drones will be promoted for crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying of insecticides and nutrients: “a startup-ification of the economy, with the stock market cheering in response.” Zero budget natural farming also found its mention — “States will be encouraged to revise syllabi of agricultural universities to meet needs of natural, zero-budget and organic farming, modern-day agriculture”, clearly not addressing serious concerns raised about such uncritical promotion of zero budget natural farming.
The politically and ecologically sensitive area of North East India has become a focus of the budget with the Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for the North East sanctioned an amount of INR 1500 crore. While the stated purpose of encouraging livelihoods among women and youth is laudable, civil society needs to be vigilant about the manner in which it is implemented. Sitharaman has also stated that border villages with sparse population and limited infrastructure would be covered under Vibrant Villages Programme, and housing, tourist centres, DTH, etc will be provided. Clearly a strong pitch is made to advance consumerist development.
Overall, as Dipa Sinha argues for The Wire, the budget represents an immense missed opportunity — rather than communicate a decisive vision for a country in economic turmoil, the budget is completely disconnected from the ground realities of the country. As Leo F. Saldanha succinctly explained in his preliminary remarks on the budget, “when it is aggressively promoting inter linking of rivers and infrastructure development for the sake of rich businesses”, it is impossible to make the claim that this is a ‘green budget’.
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 appears poised to be the next victim of the continuing onslaught on environmental protections by the Union Government. The Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2021 endangers several common but declining species of wildlife by allowing them to be classified as “vermin” and thus be opened up to being hunted. Several species that were previously protected under the Schedules of the Act have been removed in the amendments without any justification.
In keeping with the totalitarian and centralising nature of environmental amendments, regional variations in species – such as the need to protect endemic species, or the recognition of certain species as being regionally invasive – have also been glossed over. ‘State Boards for Wildlife’ have also been rendered defunct, and ‘Standing Committees’ consisting of just two members may function in their place. Finally, the amendments extend the shortcomings of the Act, which allows elephants in captivity to be considered ‘domestic’, by opening up elephants to be traded commercially. The Parliamentary Standing Committee is accepting representations on the Bill until February 12, 2022.
While the government proposes worrying amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act, instances continue to throw light on the colonialist tradition of conservation that is promoted by the statute. In Chitrakoot district of Uttar Pradesh, around 45,000 adivasis of at least 52 villages have been served with eviction notices because their villages are located in Ranipur Wildlife Sanctuary. Instances of alleged intimidation, harassment and abuse of the tribals have been reported, and are perceived to be a result of the adivasis filing community claims to forest land under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
Meanwhile, residents of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and several other villages of Jagatsighpur district in Odisha continue to resist police excesses and unlawful transfer of land for an integrated steel, cement and power project to the Jindal Steel Works group (covered in detail in our previous issue), after having spent years to force the largest industrial and infrastructure development conceived in history – the POSCO steel plant-port-pipeline-mine, off their lands. In a significant move, the Orissa High Court has directed that police excesses, high-handedness and brutality in any form by the local police be stopped immediately, while hearing PILs challenging police excesses and fabricated cases filed against villagers opposing the project.
A joint fact finding team of Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO), Ganatantrik Adhikar Shurakya Sangathan (GASS) and the Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR) has now lent its support to the movement. They have demanded immediate withdrawal of police force from the villages, a Supreme Court inquiry into forceful eviction of farmers, adequate compensation of those affected, and that all cases against villagers be lifted and the Jindal project be stopped.
A similar story of people continuing a decades-long struggle asserting their right to land and livelihood emerges from Nimmalapadu, Andhra Pradesh. In 1997, the Supreme Court had issued a series of directions to protect the interests of the Konda Dora tribe during the extraction of minerals, especially calcite, from the Fifth Schedule areas in this village. Till date, residents are fighting the State over issuance of mining licences while keeping the local community out of the decision-making process, with inadequate or no compensation, and the government’s unwillingness to develop basic civic amenities in the area.
“It is especially problematic that the IFSR counts rubber, tea, coffee and other plantations as well as urban tree canopies as forest cover”
The Indian State of Forest Report 2021 (ISFR), recently released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has claimed an increase in forest cover, a claim that has invited much criticism from experts across the country. They argue that claims in the report are unverifiable as forest cover data is not shared on public domain.
It is especially problematic that the IFSR counts rubber, tea, coffee and other plantations as well as urban tree canopies as forest cover, a stance that has been defended by the Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, who on the issue of counting plantations in determining forest cover stated in an interview with Hindustan Times: “all plantations play a crucial ecological role.” This is a deeply worrying argument as replacing forests with plantations is a threat to both biodiversity and climate change mitigation.
As is evident from across the North East which has witnessed an alarming decrease in forest cover and biodiversity, the ISFR designed to showcase a sexed up account of forests, is perhaps an effort at staging compliance with the international climate targets of the Paris agreement and domestic policy such as the National Green India Mission.
Law and Society
While India’s environmental governance landscape continues to change for the worse at a dizzying pace, the MOEF has now conceived of a “star-rating system” that will rank State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) on environmental performance primarily based on the speed at which the clearances are issued. Unsurprisingly, the objective is to facilitate ease of doing business with no regard the adverse and irreversible impacts of such rapid clearances.
When such changes are instituted, it is perplexing what is sought to be achieved by setting up a specialised Indian Environmental Service, and if it will serve any purpose other than to further reinforce bureaucratisation and weaken decentralised governance structures. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a plea for this service to be set up and has asked the government to file its response.
Meanwhile, more and more shocking evidence continues to emerge daily on the different ways in which groundwork for promoting grassroots governance, protecting human rights, and furthering socio-economic equity is being undermined in India. The New York Times in an explosive investigation has unearthed evidence of how India was among several national governments that bought Pegasus software from the Israeli government. The investigation notes that in 2017, India and Israel “agreed on the sale of a package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly $2 billion — with Pegasus and a missile system as the centerpieces”. This is the same software that has so far been used to target several activists, journalists, and politicians, and to frame many of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. The Wire’s interview with one of the co-authors of the New York Times piece throws more light on the circumstances of the India-Israel deal.
The effort appears to be to thwart fundamental freedoms of citizenry by forcing them to live in a climate of fear, whilst space for civil society organisations is systematically being constricted, as with the restrictive Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. As Arun Kumar argues, it is far more important to raise the question of “foreign influence” due to the massive influx of foreign capital into the country, than for the government to target NGOs in a blanket manner and choke them off foreign funds.
Climate Change – Global Issues and Perspectives
February 02 was World Wetlands Day. Wetlands the world over are disappearing at an alarming rate even though they are 55 times more efficient in long-term carbon sequestration rates compared to even tropical rainforests. “Blue carbon” captured by living organisms in coastal and marine ecosystems and stored in biomass and sediments has been recognised by the IPCC as having a dual role in providing both climate mitigation and adaptation.
The destruction of wetlands has enormous consequences, as is the case in Indonesia where the capital is being shifted from Jakarta to the island of Borneo due to sinking (from over extraction of ground water) and also sea level rise as a consequence of climate change. It is estimated that one-third of the city could be submerged by 2050.
Meanwhile, a study shows that the most vulnerable countries are unable to gain access to the Green Climate Fund. Unfortunately, complex and competitive application processes are keeping the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States from accessing the funding.
As BDA calls for consultants for the preparation of Revised Master Plan 2041 for Bengaluru, urban experts argue that the move is unconstitutional. Urban planning, including town planning and regulation of land use, was assigned as a function under the purview of the Urban Local Bodies in the Twelfth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The 74th Amendment provides for the constitution of a Metropolitan Planning Committee in every Metropolitan area, which has the power to prepare a draft development plan, after taking into account the plans prepared by the Municipalities and Panchayats within the said Metropolitan area.
In 1994, the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, was amended to constitute a Bangalore Metropolitan Planning Committee (BMPC) for Bangalore. The BMPC, a body with two-thirds elected representation from Municipal Corporations, councils and Panchayat, MPs and MLAs of the Metropolitan area, has to prepare a draft development plan for the Metropolitan Area as a whole. Yet, the BMPC is not functional till date, and instead we have a host of parastatal authorities that perform critical governance and planning functions. Bengaluru city grapples due to the lack of any updated tools to help planning as it currently follows the RMP 2015. The MPC should revise the master plan every 10 years but the current proposal for a RMP 2041 will mean the plan is to be valid for twenty years.
Recently, the Directorate of Urban Land Transportation invited comments on the draft Active Mobility Bill for Karnataka. The Bill is not available in Kannada, thereby rendering the public consultation grossly limiting, undemocratic and ineffective.
We invite you to join in a survey of the accessibility and affordability of Bengaluru Metro. See the easily usable survey forms in English and Kannada. It takes about 15 minutes of your time, and the gains for the public at large will be immense.
Public & Environmental Health
A new study by Greenpeace on air pollution has found that south Indian cities are not too far from pollution levels and its economic fallout on cities like Delhi. In Hyderabad and Vishakhapatnam, particulate matter levels are 6-8 times prescribed WHO standards.
A disturbing study has concluded that the planetary boundary of chemical pollution has been breached, i.e. it now threatens the biological and physical processes that underpin all life in such a way that is pushing the planet outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years. The researchers have called for a shift to a circular economy, and stronger regulation to cap chemical production and release, and for carbon targets aim to end greenhouse gas emissions. Among the chemicals identified, the scientists found plastics particularly concerning, along with 350,000 synthetic chemicals including pesticides, industrial compounds and antibiotics.
Global action on chemical control continues to be woefully slow, though moving in the right direction. For instance, a UN expert committee has determined that global action is needed for the toxic plastic additive UV-328, found widely in plastic pellets and toys.
The EU has imposed significant controls on the use of antibiotics on farm animals in a bid to control the menace of antibiotic resistance (AMR). Policymakers in India would do well to heed this move: a recent study in the Lancet has called attention to the increasing fatality caused by AMR, and the disproportionate burden of deaths caused in Asia and Africa. The study also found that India has one of the highest burdens of AMR.
Photo Credits: Deccan Herald
We mourn the passing of Hon’ble Justice K. L. Manjunath, former Justice of the High Court of Karnataka, and former chairman of the Karnataka River Waters and Border Dispute Authority. Justice Manjunath will be remembered for his progressive judgments to protect the environment. His demise is an immense loss for the State of Karnataka.
उत्तराखंड में आने वाले विधानसभा चुनावों में नदियों में होने वाला अवैज्ञानिक और अवैध खनन भी एक मुद्दा बनता दिखाई दे रहा है| विरोधी दल सरकार की खनन नीतियों पर सवाल उठा रही है | पत्रकार सत्यम कुमार के अनुसार, इस खनन से प्रकृति व राज्य के ख़ज़ाने दोनों को नुकसान पहुंचा रहा है | अवैध खनन के चलते खनन का सही मूल्य पूर्ण रूप से राज्य सरकार के ख़ज़ाने तक नहीं पहुंच पाता| अधिक मुनाफ़ा कमाने के लालच में खनन माफिया मानक से अधिक खनन करते हैं।
साथ ही यह याद रखना भी ज़रूरी है कि अवैध गतिविधि में मानवाधिकार उल्लंघन होने का खतरा कई ज़्यादा बढ़ जाता है | हाल ही में झारखंड के धनबाद में अवैध कोयला खनन के दौरान हुई दुर्घटना, जिसमें 10 से ज़्यादा लोगों के मौत की आशंका है, इस बात का गंभीर उदहारण है |
ನಮ್ಮನ್ನಾಳುತ್ತಿರುವ ಸರ್ಕಾರಗಳು, ಭವಿಷ್ಯದ ಯೋಚನೆ ಇಲ್ಲದೆ ಪರಿಸರಕ್ಕೆ ಮಾರಕವಾದ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳನ್ನು ಅನುಷ್ಠಾನ ಗೊಳಿಸಲು ಹೊರಟು ಅವುಗಳೆಲ್ಲವೂ ವಿಫಲವಾದಾಗ ಜನರಿಗೆ ಹೇಳುತ್ತಿರುವ ಹಸಿ ಸುಳ್ಳುಗಳು ! ಯುಕೆಪಿ ಅನುಷ್ಠಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಪರಿಹಾರ, ಪುನರ್ವಸತಿ ದೊಡ್ಡ ಸವಾಲು : ‘ದಂಡೆ’ ಸೇರದ ಕೃಷ್ಣಾ ಮೇಲ್ದಂಡೆ.
ರಾಜ್ಯದ ಬಹುತೇಕ ಕಡೆ ಕೆರೆ ಕುಂಟೆಗಳಿಗೆ ಹೊರದೇಶಗಳಿಂದ ಬರುವ ‘ಅತಿಥಿಗಳ’ ಸಂಖ್ಯೆ ಬೇರೆ ಬೇರೆ ಕಾರಣಗಳಿಂದ ಗಣನೀಯವಾಗಿ ಕುಸಿದಿದೆ. ‘ಅತಿ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಮೊಬೈಲ್ ಟವರ್ಗಳ ಬಳಕೆ, ಪ್ರವಾಸೋದ್ಯಮ ಇಲಾಖೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅರಣ್ಯ ಇಲಾಖೆ ನಿರ್ಲಕ್ಷ್ಯದಿಂದ ಪಕ್ಷಿಗಳು ಮೊದಲಿನಂತೆ ಸಂತಾನೋತ್ಪತಿಗಾಗಿ ಬರುತ್ತಿಲ್ಲ. ಅಲ್ಲದೇ ಕೆರೆಯ ಸುತ್ತಮುತ್ತ ಭತ್ತದ ಗದ್ದೆಗಳಿದ್ದು, ಅತಿಯಾದ ರಾಸಾಯನಿಕ ಬಳಕೆಯಿಂದಲೂ ಪಕ್ಷಿಗಳು ಇತ್ತ ಬಾರದಿರಲು ಕಾರಣವಾಗಿದೆ’ ಎಂದು ಗ್ರಾಮಸ್ಥರಾದ ರಾಹುಲ್ ಹುಲಿಮನಿ, ಕ್ಷೀರಲಿಂಗಯ್ಯ ಹಿರೇಮಠ, ಬಸವರಾಜ ಕಟ್ಟಿಮನಿ ಹೇಳುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಪಕ್ಷಿಧಾಮಗಳಿಗೆ ಮಾದರಿಯಾಗಿದ್ದ ಶ್ರೀರಂಗಪಟ್ಟಣದ ರಂಗನತಿಟ್ಟು, ಮದ್ದೂರಿನ ಕೊಕ್ಕರೆ ಬೆಳ್ಳೂರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಯುರೇಷ್ಯಾ, ಉತ್ತರ ಭಾರತ ಹಾಗೂ ಕರಾವಳಿ ತಟಗಳಿಂದ ಬರುವ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳಿಗಿಂತ ಸ್ಥಳೀಯ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳೇ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿವೆ. ನದಿಗಳ ಹಿನ್ನೀರು, ಕೆರೆ–ಕಟ್ಟೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ 90ರ ದಶಕದಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರತಿ ವರ್ಷ 1.5 ಲಕ್ಷ ವಲಸೆ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳಿರುತ್ತಿದ್ದವು. ಈಗ 30 ಸಾವಿರದಷ್ಟು ಮಾತ್ರ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳು ಬರುತ್ತಿವೆ. ಹೀಗಾಗಿ ಮೂರು ತಿಂಗಳು ನಡೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳ ಸಮೀಕ್ಷೆ ಕೆಲವೇ ದಿನಕ್ಕೆ ಮುಗಿಯುತ್ತಿದೆ. ಬ್ಬಾತುಗಳಿಗೆ ಗದಗ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ ಶಿರಹಟ್ಟಿ ತಾಲ್ಲೂಕಿನ ಮಾಗಡಿ ಕೆರೆ ಅಚ್ಚುಮೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿತ್ತು. ನಾಲ್ಕು ತಿಂಗಳು ಕೆರೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ವಚ್ಛಂದವಾಗಿ ಈಜುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ಊರಿನ ಗ್ರಾಮಸ್ಥರೂ ಅಷ್ಟೇ ಪ್ರೀತಿ ತೋರುತ್ತಿದ್ದರು. ಆದರೆ, ಇತ್ತೀಚಿನ ದಿನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸುತ್ತಲಿನ ಪರಿಸರದಲ್ಲಿ ಆದ ಬದಲಾವಣೆಯಿಂದಾಗಿ ಬರುವ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳ ಸಂಖ್ಯೆ ಕಡಿಮೆ ಆಗುತ್ತಿದೆ. ಕಲ್ಲು ಸಿಡಿಸುವ ಸದ್ದು, ಕೆರೆಯ ಏರಿ ಮೇಲೆ ನಿರಂತರವಾಗಿ ಸಾಗುವ ಟಿಪ್ಪರ್ಗಳ ಶಬ್ದ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳಿಗೆ ಕಿರಿಕಿರಿ ಉಂಟು ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿದೆ.
Environment Support Group (Trust)
1572, 36th Cross, Ring Road
Banashankari II Stage
Bangalore 560070. INDIA
Website: esgindia.org Email: email@example.com
Donate Via Razorpay
- All donations to ESG are exempted u/s 12 A and 80G of Income Tax Act, 1961.
- ESG has been registered for undertaking CSR activities.
- Environment Support Group(ESG) is registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)
- Recipient of ED certification from NGOsource