Vol 4. Issue 03
ESG @ Kochi-Muziris Biennale
Building Imaginaries of Hope & Inclusivity in Tackling Climate Change: An ESG & Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022 collaboration
Floods, droughts, forest fires, heatwaves, caused by climate change, are wreaking havoc globally. But the extractivist and socio-economically unjust paradigm of ‘development’ which caused the crisis, is relentlessly pursued. Policies and politics cause strife amidst us when communities in every village, town, city, state, country and the entire world need to come together guided by values of compassion, celebrating diversities and embracing ecocentrism. We struggle to hold on to sandy beaches of security as waves of our past actions impact our futures.
In collaboration with Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022, ESG invites school students, youth and wide public to interactive, informative, introspective and insightful workshops, so wellsprings of collective imaginations and hope can triumph over the disempowering nature of prevailing crises. Details here.
ESG’s Webinar Series on Tackling Air Pollution
As part of commemorating ESG’s 25 years of service to public causes and advancing environmental and social justice, a series of webinars will be held on the critical public and environmental health concerns relating to air pollution. Leading environmental and public health experts along with senior officers and regulators will carefully examine multiple dimensions of this serious global problem, relating to Bangalore’s own struggles, in an effort to find governance, public action and technological pathways to make clean air accessible to everyone.
Register for this four part webinar series here.
The Supreme Court of India prohibited the Delhi Development Authority from allotting land in protected areas including notified ridges which form Delhi’s lungs. At about the same time, the Green Bench of the Supreme Court allowed 118 pending projects which were challenged on grounds of environmental violation to proceed. Projects involving felling of massive numbers of trees, including heritage trees, widespread destruction of forests and cutting through wildlife reserves were allowed.
Meanwhile, in response to a question by Rajya Sabha MP Aneel Hegde about steps taken to prevent Joshimath like disasters across the Himalaya, MoEF&CC chose to respond by describing environmental laws in place, and not really answering the questions raised. Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, for instance, has over 50% of its posts lying vacant, indicating massive support essential for environmental regulation. All this clearly indicates evolving environmental jurisprudence is confounding at best, and contradictory at worst.
Bangalore: Flying over Congestion?
The Government of Karnataka has proposed to build 11 overpasses in Bangalore, raising questions if this is a sub-component of the 110 km Elevated Corridor that was abandoned a few years ago. The demand for flyovers is emerging in multiple neighbourhoods even when it is abundantly clear that they don’t help redress congestion. That especially when private vehicular use is incentivised, even made essential, by poor public transport infrastructure.
Price of bad Renewable Solutions
The Ministry for New and Renewable Energy has said that by 2026, India will manufacture solar modules worth 100 GW annually, and thus help turn India into an exporter of solar power without depending on import of Chinese panels. However, despite 57 large solar parks worth 40 GW being commissioned in recent years, only 10 GW have been operationalised. The overall policy is pegged on promoting mega solar parks with massive social and environmental impacts, and rarely is there emphasis on distributed development of the solar power sector, as is the case of Telangana State Renewable Energy Development Corporation.
Following on the push for renewable energy solutions, and the massive importance of storage and EVs, exploration and mining of lithium, or “white gold”, has expanded. It is estimated that 5.9 million tonnes of lithium is available for extraction in Jammu and Kashmir, and this has triggered major debates about its environmental fallout in the ecologically sensitive Himalayas. Besides, there is growing evidence, as in Indonesia’s Morowali Industrial Park, of extensive exploitation of labour and the environment as a consequence of nickel production.
It is reported that in an effort to woo voters ahead of the 2023 Karnataka elections, religious events and encroachment of lakes have come in handy. Massive structures and religious statues were installed in Mallathahalli Lake and Mathikere Lake (JP Park) of Bangalore in brazen violation of High Court and Supreme Court directives. This has been pointed out in ESG’s representations to Karnataka’s Apex Lake Protection Committee constituted under the Karnataka High Court’s order in ESG’s Lake PIL (WP No. 817/2008) and to Designated Officers appointed under Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority Act, 2014.
ESG has also raised concerns in a representation to authorities that the 112-foot tall Adiyogi statue to be erected by Isha Yoga Centre in Avalagurki village in Chikkaballapur District, is in all likelihood encroaching critical waterways of the Arkavathi River, a major tributary of Cauvery, which supports Bangalore’s drinking water needs. This comes at a time when recovering lakes is extremely complex, as is the experience of saving Subramanyapura Lake. Encroaching commons appears to have turned epidemic, as is evident in Bakhtawarpur and 78 villages of Delhi which are also facing encroachment of their commons due to reckless urbanisations.
Mitigating Impacts of Climate Change
National Mission for a Green India (GIM) is one of eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s forest cover and responding to climate change. However, India is lagging behind its targets to increase extent and quality of greenery. Nepal, on the other hand, has almost doubled its forest cover from 26% in 1992 to 45% in 2016.
In an effort to protect the 244-km-long Periyar river in Kerala, as well as the Barak, Mahanadi, Narmada, Godavari and Kaveri rivers, special programmes have been launched under the National River Conservation Plan, Meanwhile, halfway across the world, Nile is under threat by rising sea levels and over extraction.
In an unprecedented move, Australia has rejected a coal mining application on environmental grounds thus protecting Rockhampton, situated less than 10 km from the Great Barrier Reef. But mining in seas is expanding elsewhere in an effort to extract valuable minerals from the depths of the ocean. The high seas support extraordinary biodiversity and hold the world’s climatic balance. Which is why 193 UN member states are in negotiations in New York to formulate a treaty to protect the world’s oceans.
Genetically Modified Organisms
The poplars may soon be the first genetically modified trees planted in the United States. These trees are genetically engineered to grow wood at turbocharged rates while slurping up carbon dioxide from the air. But this raises concerns over the irreversible implications of GMOs becoming part of wild areas.
Germany’s agritech giant corporation Bayer has been ordered by the Supreme Court of Brazil to return to Brazilian soybean farmers royalties they were charged for GMO soybean, based on a lawsuit filed by Mato Grosso which sought to cancel Monsanto’s (now owned by Bayer) patent protection. Soy producer associations in 10 Brazilian states are part of this lawsuit. Meanwhile, ESG’s PIL before the High Court of Karnataka exposing Monsanto’s biopiracy in B.t. Brinjal is soon to be heard.
The critically endangered Great Indian Bustard has been sighted in various villages in Karnataka, raising hopes that the bird will bounce back from the verge of extinction. Similarly, efforts to protect vulture populations appear to be returning promising outcomes, as the recent survey in the Nilgiri biosphere found 355 vultures of different species.
In Pune, a treasure trove of biodiversity has been discovered in Velhe Forest, located in the foothills of the Rajgad Fort. It is home to about 496 unique species, 172 birds, 105 butterflies and moths, 19 mammals. In Kerala, five agricultural products – pottuvellari (snap melon), Attapady Attukombu avara (dolichos beans), Attapady thuvara (red gram), Kanthalloor-Vattavada veluthulli (garlic) and Onattukara ellu (sesame) have been granted the GI Tag for the first time, in an effort to protect them from biopiracy and bioloot.
A new fish – the catfish genus Horaglanis, which lives in local aquifers without light, has also been discovered in Kerala. Meanwhile, in order to protect the desert ecology in Jaisalmer from the damage caused by tourism, the National Green Tribunal has directed the constitution of a ten member joint committee for submission of a study on the same.
The Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) of the Akathethara Grama Panchayat, Kerala has received accolades for its efforts in conserving biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge.
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