ESG Features: A Climate Action Plan for Bengaluru
During March and June 2021, ESG worked with administrators of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and Karnataka Government, senior representatives of regulatory agencies, representatives of multiple sectors across Bengaluru, academicians and experts, and importantly the wide public, in 9 webinars held through the 2nd major lockdowns imposed due to COVID in developing “Make Bengaluru Climate Friendly: A blueprint for integrated, participatory and inclusive urban governance”.
This plan, now in public domain, is reaching rural and urban local governments across Karnataka, Members of Parliament representing Karnataka, Members of Legislative Assembly and Council of Karnataka, to all agencies of the Government of Karnataka, Union Ministries and Central/State regulatory addressing environment and climate change concerns. ESG would also be presenting this strategy to relevant agencies involved with urban action to tackle climate change as part of the COP 26 organised by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
We hope this unprecedented effort will inspire Bengaluru in working its way towards a climate friendly future, and that this would inspire similar actions elsewhere. We believe that such collectivised ground up action will provide us a reasonable chance to reverse climate change for our benefit and that of generations to come.
We are thrilled to see similar efforts being undertaken by the Mumbai administration. As Nikhil Anand and Lalitha Kamath aptly argue in the Indian Express, Mumbai’s climate planning must not only cut across all sectors of governance, but should be an outcome of deeply democratic processes.
Forcible Evictions for “Environment Reasons”
In a must-read report, the Housing and Land Rights Network has found that at least 173,333 persons were forcibly evicted in India in 2020. Most were not rehabilitated or compensated in any way. Appallingly, almost half were evicted due to “environmental” reasons, including wildlife and forest protection. We can add to the list the ongoing eviction of agriculturalists from the Banni grasslands of Kutch. It shows how a simplistic framing of environment-human interactions ignores complexities such as the erosion of communities’ management of commons due to centralised governance, as has been described in this account of how encroachments by Banni’s local communities began.
Karnataka High Court Rules on Cauvery Calling
The Karnataka High Court has passed a judgment allowing afforestation on farmlands through the Cauvery Calling Project. The logic is that trees will save the planet, and it is not a crime to plant them on “barren” private land. This ruling is the outcome of a Public Interest Litigation which challenged ISHA Foundation’s claims that this project is the outcome of collaboration with the Government. The final ruling records that ‘Cauvery Calling’ is not a project developed with support from the Karnataka Government. See also the report of a national seminar organised at Asian College of Journalism on Interrogating Cauvery Calling on 23 November 2019.
Farm and Food Security
In this context, it is worth noting recent reports that provide a grim insight into increasing levels of agricultural distress, which is forcing farmers out of farms. Farm income is increasingly coming through wages from labour, and farm debt is mounting.
An overview of changing rainfall patterns in the north-east, for instance, indicates foolhardiness in promoting oil palm crop in this ecologically sensitive region. In the meantime, Sri Lanka has taken a decision to ban the import of agri-chemicals and promote organic farming. But this move, which many complain has been didactic, appears to be contributing to a food crisis and a nationally-imposed food emergency.
Interrogating Wetland Protection
India’s decision to declare more wetlands in the country as sites of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, needs to be deeply interrogated, which Ritesh Kumar of Wetlands International does not in his essay in Mongabay. As ongoing efforts of Indigenous Perspectives of Manipur, Ngamee Lup and ESG has revealed, merely declaring Loktak as a Ramsar site does not guarantee its protection as a region of ecological and cultural diversities.
A Flawed Environmental Clearance Process
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Environment Support Group (Trust)
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