Environment Justice Matters- Vol3. Issue 5 | It’s A Last-Minute Gift That Makes A Difference

Vol3. Issue 5

In the final hours of the 2021-22 Financial Year, we invite you to support ESG’s critical efforts advancing environmental justice. 

Key Highlights Of Our Work This Past Year

2021 brought with it unimaginable pain and suffering across India and around the world due to the COVID pandemic. ESG relentlessly worked in assisting vulnerable communities through these difficult times. 

Alongside we persisted in implementing the landmark decision strengthening the protection of lakes (and their canal networks) as commons, across Karnataka. Over 39000 lakes in the state will thus be protected from pollution, encroachment and destruction. To assist in the implementation of the Court’s directives, ESG has been working in collaboration with the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority to build capacities of District administrations and communities across the State. This work will continue. 

We will be continuing to work to resolve the vexatious solid waste management situation across the State by forestaging ground up strategies, instead of top down corporatisation of waste management particularly in Bengaluru.  And we have helped build capacities of various cities across India in similarly organising ground up strategies such as by organisting  Solid Waste Management workshops in Imphal and Mangaluru.

All these are part of our efforts to ensure Indian cities play a leading role in positive and progressive climate action. To advance which ESG helped construct a comprehensive climate action plan for Bengaluru with widespread participation. This process is now becoming a model for emulation in other parts of India.

We continue to critically examine the implications of mega projects, especially those which are promoted as “just transition” projects. As part of a fact-finding mission, ESG team members were involved in exposing a land grab for a mega solar power plant at Nagaon, Assam. Such critical analysis continues also in how the COVID pandemic has been handled, as with ESG’s collaboration with a global research community as part of the Comparative Covid Responses, an international project led by researchers at Harvard and Cornell University.

All these learnings are being passed on to various student communities, as with the Immersive certificate course on environmental and social justice ESG organised for students of O.P. Jindal Global University.  

In the coming months we plan to broadbase our efforts to secure commons through community efforts. One such is the initiative to establish a Lake Protection Committee in Subramanyapura kere in Bangalore South, a model that can be emulated nationwide.  In similar ways we are working with Loktak Lake communities to protect this incredible wetland for posterity.  

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We want to do more… which is possible with your support.  In the final hours of the 2021-22 financial year, do consider being part of this process with your generous donations.  

  • All donations from Indians are exempted from tax as per Sec 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961. 
  • ESG  is  registered for Corporate Social Responsibility collaborations. The organisation has an active clearance under the Foreign Contribution REgulation Act, and has a ED certificate from NGOsource

Climate Change

The Earth’s poles have witnessed an extraordinary rise in temperature, climbing over 40 and 30 degrees higher than normal in the Antarctic and Arctic regions respectively. As scientists try and figure out this freak of nature event, this extraordinary heatwave is disastrous for endemic adelie penguins, polar bears and mosses of the region. For us it means loss of ice sheets. The IPCC warns global rise in temperature between 2º C and 3º C this century would mean the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet would almost completely be lost, and this could result in ice free summers by 2050 and massive rise in sea levels globally. 

Worried about consequences for their futures, thousands of children skipped school to protest against climate change on March 25th as part of a global strike across over 750 cities and towns organised by Fridays for Future. They demand an end to the flawed socio-economic model based on extractivism, capitalism and colonialism. Young Russian activists also openly denounced their Government’s war on Ukraine.

Polarisation

The recent ban imposed by Hindutva groups on Muslims to set up temporary stalls in Hindu temple fairs in various districts across Karnataka brings up disturbing questions about the threat to the long held syncretic traditions of the region. This has now proceeded to demand a ban on halal meatA senior BJP leader has condemned this move, even as the Chief Minister of Karnataka has decided to consider such disturbing demands. Legal experts term such restrictions unconstitutional

‘Prohibiting Hijab in Educational Institutions: A Constitutional Assessment’ offers a critical analysis on how the ban on Hijab is against Constitutional guarantees protecting people’s freedoms to practise any religion. The polarisation in the Indian political scene with ban on hijab in educationals institutions is distressing Muslim women as the Supreme Court tells lawyers seeking a stay of the Karnataka HIgh Court ruling to stop ‘sensationalising the issue’.

Communities and Energy

The use of “technologically-critical elements” (TCEs), such as cobalt, lithium, neodymium and dysprosium etc, in the production of renewable energies, i.e, wind, solar and hydro energies to meet the world’s net zero emissions targets, can prove to be counterproductive due to the pollution caused in the process of extraction, transportation and disposal of these materials. Little is known about the lifecycle of TCEs post disposal, even with the employment of green mining technologies and new recycling methods.

Meanwhile reports from Pavagada in Karnataka where one of the largest solar parks has been established, indicate how this has left local communities worse off, even as the disappearance of once common local fauna is being noticed. The model of land pooling here comprehensively sidestepped land acquisitions laws, and promoting leasing out farm and commons. Communities who hoped to benefit from this new deal, find they are now worse off.   

Without at all acknowledging such impacts, the Karnataka government has now issued the Draft Karnataka Renewable Energy Policy 2021-2026 that envisages an increase in renewable energy production to 10GW in the next 5 years.  The idea is to persist with the Pavagada model in promoting solar farms, floating solar, rooftop solar, wind farms, solar-wind hybrid energy projects, waste to energy projects, etc. There is no mention at all in the document of the environmental and social consequences, which are found to be irreversible. Such concerns were highlighted in Making Bengaluru Energy independent as part of ESG’s efforts to develop a Climate Action Plan for Bengaluru.  

Bangalore Film Society (BFS) in collaboration with Bengaluru Sustainability Forum, Karnataka Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi, Gamana Women’s Collective, Gram Seva Sangh, G Foundation for Art and Culture and Kriti Film Club organised a four day film festival in Bangalore called the Jacaranda Tales. The film festival screened 24 short films, spanning multiple languages themed on Women and Nature, followed by a discussion with the directors of films showcased.

Green Clearances  

A recent report of the Parliamentary Committee on Coals, Mines and Steel notes that 80% of Bauxite reserves are yet to be explored. The committee recommends, therefore, that Indian Government must speed up environmental and forest clearances, along with land acquisitions and consents to promote mining.  All this is argued as essential to make India self reliant in the Aluminium sector, regardless of the horrific implications to adivasis who live in thickly forested central India region where these bauxite reserves are located 

The Supreme court of India directed the Odisha government to implement a wildlife management plan, that was part of the conditions while giving clearances for 97 quarries in ecologically sensitive zones of a wildlife reserve in the state, before quarry operations are to start. Similar incidents of non compliances were reported from development projects in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh. A National Regulator is the need of the hour to ensure the responsible parties comply with all the conditions that are mentioned in approved projects. 

Rights to Privacy

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill 2022 introduced in the Lok Sabha without any public consultation has been criticised as tremendously undermining the privacy of ordinary citizens and undertrials and a draconian law that will allow the National Crime Records Bureau to collect biometric data of anyone arrested under any law (including Traffic violations and protestors engaged in political protests), and then store it for a period of 75 years. The Internet Freedom Foundation critiques the Bill even as Opposition members argue the Bill is beyond the legislative competence of Parliament for it violates fundamental rights of citizens including the right to privacy.

Road Safety In Bengaluru

As the city returned to normalcy post the Omicron wave, the number of accidents on Bengaluru roads have shot up. A recent Deccan Herald article discusses a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) which indicates Bengaluru roads are the most hazardous in the state with a staggering number of 20 hazards per kilometre! Such hazards include design faults, poor or non-existent signages, awful speed breakers, potholes, etc. The report also highlighted the reckless issuing of driving licences and fitness certificates as a major causative factor for accidents, making this a major public health crisis. This has forced the Karnataka High Court to direct the BBMP to fill up all the potholes and conduct a road survey to identify such hazards. 

Rejuvenating Rivers?

The Indian government has proposed rejuvenating 13 major rivers spread across the country, including the Yamuna, Cauvery, Krishna, and Luni. According to the plan that the government has laid out, the river banks will be replanted, agroforestry schemes will be implemented, and eco parks will be established. Additionally, the government also plans to establish plantations along river basins. But experts warn that this may compromise the ecosystem surrounding the basin, the rights of local residents, and the ownership of the land. Intense protests by tribals succeeded in stopping the Par-Tapi-Narmada river link project in Gujarat forcing the BJP leadership to halt the controversial project. 

Jaggi Vasudev aka Sadhguru of Isha Foundation who had earlier championed Rally for the Rivers and the controversial Cauvery Calling campaigns, has now begun a Save Soil campaign riding on a motorbike over 30000 km across continents. This has drawn sharp criticism from Prof. Prakash Kashwan of the University of Connecticut even as DW of Germany reports that “Doubts persist about whether motorbiking thousands of kilometers is the most climate-friendly way to raise awareness about soil degradation.”  The campaigns promoted by Isha Foundation promote tree planting, for which it raises money and resources from public donations and public institutions. Reports from Uttarkhand suggest that such approaches are likely ecologically unsustainable and economically unviable. 

Mixed Environmental Jurisprudence from the Supreme Court

“The environment must prevail over all other rights” held one Bench of the Supreme Court of India, while another held Businesses providing jobs should not be shut down for lacking prior environmental clearance.  How this jurisprudence impacts judicial interpretation of community and corporate rights in the future, needs to be seen.

Civil and Political Rights

Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech, SII Oppose Plea In Supreme Court For Public Disclosure Of Vaccine Trial Data raising worries if the emergency release of vaccines to tackle the COVID pandemic has fundamentally affected the nature of a person’s privilege to Free Prior and Informed Consent to secure one’s health. In another worrying development, two were arrested for merely painting graffiti against construction of dams in Arunachal Pradesh.

Recently, renowned anthropologist Filipo Osella was deported after arrival at Kerala airport, ostensibly because as a South Asian scholar he also has visited Pakistan. Such moves, Arvind Narrain suggests, are indicative of the strengthening of a totalitarian state.

Namma Metro Inclusivity And Accessibility Study

Who travels on the Metro and who does not? 

Who can reach the Metro and who feels left behind? 

Is this high funded project a fair deal for this city? Can the common spaces of the common man be traded for a transportation facility for a few? 

Environment Support Group (ESG) is conducting an independent study on the inclusivity and accessibility of the Bangalore Metro Rail transportation system Thousands of crores are being spent on the Metro rail, yet it is far from solving the transportation crisis of the city with its low riderships. The city has 55km of Metro network built and a lot more in various stages of construction. Can we help reimagine a Metro that caters to all irrespective of gender, economic group, age, language and other barriers. 
Take this Survey: Requires 3 minutes only, accessible in Kannada and English and provide your valuable insights for our study :  Link to Namma Metro Survey


Environment Support Group (Trust)

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Bangalore 560070. INDIA

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