We20 Summit Shockingly Shut Down by Delhi Police
Hundreds from across India gathered in HKS Surjeet Bhavan of CPI (M) in New Delhi to participate in the WE20 Peoples’ Summit organised by the Working Group on IFIs 18-20th August 2023. The Summit was a critique of the G20 process under India’s Presidency.
As the summit got underway, with a range of workshops and cultural events, drawing leading figures from multiple sectors, on the morning of 19th August the Delhi Police swept in with a massive battalion and attempted to shut down the Summit. Unfazed, the workshops continued. The police ensured no one was allowed in by throwing a massive police cordon. The summit had to be closed by noon on Sunday as the police literally forced it shut. See the We20 Peoples’ Summit Declaration: People and Nature over Profits and Statement protesting police action.
The implications of the Modi administration preventing any critical engagement with the G20 process are analysed here as a ‘democratic backslide’ (The Wire); that, perhaps, ‘Modi Government is scared of the truth’ (The Wire); and was also globally covered, as in Washington Post.
Generations of Struggle, Generations of Triumph: Bannerghatta’s Land Rights
It took over 60 years of consistent struggle for Hakki Pikki and Iruliga tribes in Ragihalli State Forest, part of the Bannerghatta National Park south of Bengaluru, to secure their natural and fundamental right to land. Madhu Bhushan and others of SIEDS have commitedly and consistently worked with these marginalised tribes over the past three decades to clear several hurdles that were thrown in the way.
On 12th August, 114 families received comprehensive rights of ownership and cultivation over 2 acres of land in denotified forest land, on condition it cannot be alienated or its land use changed. This is historic in more ways than one and serves as a socio-ecological fence against the advancing metropolis. Member of Parliament D K Suresh played a remarkable role in removing all hurdles and rending historical justice to these communities. Read a note on the significance of this transformation. Read the press release here. Read more information here.
Handmade Fabric for an Earth Friendly Future
Ragi Kana brings together diverse people in a vibrant weekly ‘santhe’, every Sunday, replete with fresh organic vegetables & fruits, hand pressed oils, Forest honey, naturally dyed handmade sarees & garments, and the ‘jolada rotti’ oota. This set the right tone for commemoration of the National Handloom day with a public interaction on “Handmade Fabric for an Earth Friendly Future” at this unique space on 5th August. This helped connect the dots between action required to reverse climate change & how the handmade sector is the most effective way forward in guaranteeing a ‘carbon neutral’ economy. Sharadha of Desi Trust, Vrunda Sekar, and Bhargavi Rao and Leo Saldanha of ESG discussed various aspects of reviving the handloom sector.
‘Satyameva Jayate’: A festive tribute to India’s Liberal Democracy
Bahutva Karnataka, a civil society network that works to ensure values of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity, which form the bedrock of the Constitution, survive to provide us all a secure future, organised a spectacular event on the eve of India’s Independence at the iconic Airlines Hotel. It was truly a celebration of all liberal values which began at dusk and went on into the midnight when the Indian National Flag was unfurled to the singing of the National Anthem. Music, dance, exhibitions, theatre performances and quizzes kept the gathering engaged and enthralled, as M. D. Pallavi, Vasu Dixit, Thermal and a Quarter, Swarathma, Agni and several more performed at the event.
Indian Government Devastates Forest & Biodiversity Protection Laws
In what is widely regarded as amongst the most controversial decisions taken by the Narendra Modi administration, comprehensive amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, 2002 and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 were passed during the Monsoon Session when the entire Opposition had boycotted Parliamentary proceedings on account of the Prime Minister’s continued silence on Manipur violence. The Bills proposing these amendments were rushed through despite wide spread opposition, and also massive public demand that they must be withdrawn.
Leo Saldanha analysed for Frontline the devastating implications of these amendments explaining over 25% of India’s forests have now lost their protection, and bioloot, bioextraction and biopiracy has found massive boost.
Not surprisingly, Odisha government rushed to issue a letter allowing non-forest use of land in ‘deemed forests’.
The amendment of the Forest Act will have huge implications for the northeast of India creating confusion amongst local communities on their rights to ancestral lands. BEsides, it now opens the floodgates of commercial plantations, especially oil palm, across northeast India.
The Government of India’s promotion of ‘ease of doing business’ over all other considerations, is resulting in devastating consequences in the Great Nicobar Island which may see over 9.64 lakh, and not 8.5 lakh, trees felled to enable the construction of a trans-shipment port, an international airport, township development, and a 450 MVA gas and solar-based power plant in the Great Nicobar island.
According to World Air Quality Index, Guwahati, the largest metropolis in the northeast region of India, found itself on the top of 100 most polluted cities, beating even Delhi and Mumbai.
Meanwhile, Bangalore has a unique problem as the city has only 3 licensed slaughterhouses and tanneries which are extremely ill equipped to deal with pollution loads Meanwhile, Coimbatore Smart City Mission has initiated cleaning of over 15.5 lakh cubic metres of waste accumulated over the decades and free government land worth about Rs. 2,000 crore.
While Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) recommends surgical construction of grade-separators/flyovers to relieve traffic congestion pressures in Bengaluru, and also air pollution, the real solution, Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV) advocates is in mainstreaming public transport.
More Claims of Achieving Net-Zero Emissions
Adani intends to make all his industries net carbon neutral by 2030, bringing to fore the key question how exactly as it is amongst the largest fossil fuel based corporation globally. Meanwhile zero-emission electric trucks (ZETs) are being proposed to replace fuel-driven trucks raising concerns of how lithium and other rare earth elements demanded for this transition will be sourced.
And in a major contradiction to India’s net zero ambitions, Arunachal Pradesh Government has handed over 12 hydropower projects abandoned by private firms to 3 central public sector undertakings – projects the involve massive destruction of forests, rivers and indigenous communities – claiming this is about achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.
A new and distressing form of plastic pollution has been discovered in Indonesia wherein melted plastic has fused with natural materials creating “Frankenrocks.” These grotesque formations likely result from the incineration of plastic waste.
Plastic pollution has reached an all time high as is evidenced by the landmark occurrence of Plastic Overshoot Day on 28th July,2023: a point at which the amount of plastics exceeds the global waste management capacity. The terrible consequences of such plastic pollution is hitting even closer at home as study has revealed microplastics’ presence in human hearts!
Several ‘solutions’ are being devised to tackle the insidious problem of plastic waste. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has engineered a breakthrough alternative to traditional plastic by using microbes which produce ingredients for poly keto enamine (PDK) plastic, which is claimed as an infinitely recyclable material even when it is not 100% recyclable. Another breakthrough claimed is in converting waste plastic into pyrolysis oil, making valuable olefins available for various industries.
Mixed News on Conservation
While 6 out of 20 cheetahs introduced in Kuno National Park have died, the remaining cheetahs have developed thick coats of fur in anticipation of African winter – and this is fatal in India’s weather conditions for it caused fatal infections. In a happy contrast, Assam’s state zoo celebrated success with captive breeding of the Himalayan vulture.
In what would otherwise be financially impossible in Bangalore, where land is super expensive, following a 20 year long battle the Forest Department has reclaimed 324 acres of the Turahalli Minor Forest south of the metropolis. ESG has played a signal role since the mid 2000s in protecting this forest patch. Read more about how this forest could turn into an educative space as well.
That said, when the world works on the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, India’s experiment with tree plantation for restoration has come under severe criticism, that tree plantation is being promoted over natural revival of ecosystems.
[This volume of Environment Justice Matters has been compiled by Yashaswini Sundar & Nidhi H]
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