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On Environment Day Government urged to reject carbon trade, interlinking of rivers, GM crops, nuclear power and waste incinerators

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 | 4:05 AM

Adopt Ganga River Basin Approach and Himalayan Watershed Approach against imminent public health and water crisis 

Suggestions given to Prime Minister and Ministers of Environment, Water Resources & Ganga Rejuvenation

June 4, 2014: On the eve of World Environment Day 2014, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) reiterates its suggestions to the new government asking it to abandon carbon trade, interlinking of rivers, GM crops, nuclear power and Dioxins emitting waste incinerators and appeals for adoption of Ganga River Basin approach and Himalayan Watershed approach against imminent environment, public health and water crises. 

TWA appeals to the Government of India to:

1.    Disassociate India from carbon trade. As long as carbon offsets and carbon trade remain part of the text of the climate treaty no amount of verbiage can disguise the fact that it is not good for the developing countries which are imitating the industrialised countries. Some 130 species of birds have become extinct since the 17th century because of alterations in climate, landscape and their food sources. Collapse of bee hives is quite widespread. Agricultural production depends on them but this does not seem to matter to companies and visionless nation states especially from the industrialised countries; it is the people in developing countries who will suffer the most.

The continued failure of developing countries like India in getting rid of false solutions from the negotiations due to their incestuous relationship with carbon credit-earning companies will lead to resource conflicts. This is akin to pushing the client states towards agreeing to discuss climate crisis in the UN Security Council, which has already been attempted on two occasions. India must revise their strategy by the next major UNFCCC Conference in 2015 before it is too late for course correction.  The new government and your ministry should ensure the death of the old industrial policies of the pre-climate crisis era and the rebirth of an enlightened policy-making that takes into account intergenerational equity with regard to natural resources would be sufficient.

2.    Pay heed to the pearls of wisdom from Mahabharata that describes the Divine Being saying, “The mountains are his bones. The earth is his fat and flesh. The oceans are his blood. Space is his stomach. The Wind is his breath. Fire is his energy. The rivers are his arteries and veins. Agni and Soma, otherwise called the Sun and the Moon, are called his eyes. The firmament above is his head. The earth is his two feet. The cardinal and subsidiary points of the horizon are his arms,” the new government should reject the idea of “inter-linking of rivers based on feasibility”. This is narrated by Bhishma in conversation with Yudhishthira by referring to the reply of Rishi Bhrigu to sage Bharadwaja. This verse occurs in the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata.

Interlinking of rivers entails mutilation of the veins and arteries of the divine nature. Rivers shape the terrain and lives of people by its waters which are always in a dynamic state. Breaking this dynamic would unleash forces of uncontrolled change and invite the ‘law of unintended consequences’. Let’s remember the terrible Aral Sea disaster caused by the mistakes of Soviet Union in which two Siberian rivers were diverted. If water scarcity is the perennial question, there better answers like the groundwater recharge master plan available with the government. Water can be made to “Reach to All Homes, Farms and Factories” by adopting this plan as well at a minimal cost.

Whenever there is conflict between financial gains and rivers, the latter must get priority over monetary benefits because by any yard stick economic value of a free flowing river is bigger than dammed and mutilated rivers. The capitalist, communist and colonial legacy of treating rivers as material flow that flow through pipelines must be abandoned and rivers must be treated as living beings that nourished our civilization for centuries and can nourish all the coming generations if cannibalistic tendency of diverting waters in bottles, dams and banks is stopped.

With regard to pollution in rivers, if the new Prime Minister can demonstrate the political will to stop all the effluents and sewage from entering into river streams through a single executive decision, he would have done an exemplary act of arresting ecological collapse and for safeguarding the quality of blood flowing in veins and arteries of the present and future generations.

3.     Adopt Ganga River Basin and Himalayan Watershed Approach
    While the commercial benefits of damming rivers has been talked about a lot, the in-stream and off stream monetary and non-monetary benefits and advantages of flowing rivers has not been assessed so far. This approach requires undertaking that assessment.

    The declaration of Ganga River Basin Authority in the aftermath of the acknowledgment by the Prime Minister's Office under the earlier regime said, "there is a need to replace the current piecemeal efforts taken up in a fragmented manner in select cities with an integrated approach that sees the river as an ecological entity and to address issues of quantity in terms of water flows along with issues of quality". This merited attention in action but it did not happen. The Ganga River Basin Authority which was formed remained a non-starter on the ground. In a way this was the Third Phase of Ganga Action Plan (GAP-III) which failed to positively affect the quality of surface water, ground water and the survival of natural flow of the rivers in the basin. The GAP-I, which was to be completed by March 1990 was extended till March, 2000 when it was declared complete but Phase I of the Plan is not yet to be fully completed and GAP-II which was to be completed in 2001 was extended till December 2008. This too remains incomplete.

The truncated River Basin approach of the previous government applied to only 79% of Ganga basin, which is in India.

The Fourth Ganga Action Plan announced by the new Prime Minister must address 13 % of Ganga basin that is in Nepal, 4 % in Bangaldesh and 4 % in Tibet and its relationship with the river systems and with the composite Ganga-Brahmputra-Meghna basin and its consequences.

It must reverse the pre-existing policies of Industry, Power, Agriculture, Urban Development, Health and Environment by the central government, the governments of eleven states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttranchal, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal), the neighboring countries and make the interest of industry bodies like CII/FICCI/ASSOCHEM/PHCCI subservient to the interest of Ganga.

The new initiative will meet the same old fate if it does no factor in the relevance of Ganga River basin approach when the river channel has been amputated from the flood plains besides the amputation of the river channel itself.

The new government must recognize that the biggest threats to Ganga basin include Interlinking of Rivers project, UP’s Ganga Expressway project, industrial corridors, Uttarakhand’s hydro-projects, some 191 heavily polluting industries in the Ganga basin states, West Bengal’s Farraka Barrage, State specific Interlinking of Rivers projects, pollution from “Religious” Activities, industrial effluents, sewage and corporate funding of political parties.

4.    Support a UN treaty to regulate corporations.

It is indeed a sad commentary on the state of affairs in India that the previous Government of did not express its support for the Ecuadorian declaration regarding "Transnational Corporations and Human Rights" before the UN Human Rights Council session in September 2013. This action of the Ecuadorian government has been ratified in Geneva at the 2nd Forum on Business and Human Rights on 3-4 December 2013. The declaration has received wide support from UN member-countries, such as the African Group, the Arabic Group, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru. Although India used to be at the forefront of initiatives like Code of Conduct for TNCs, its silence with regard to September 2013 declaration is inconsistent with India's past stance on the issue and is contrary to the interest of present and future generation of Indians.

In view of its significance, one of the first few tasks the new government must to do is to publicly endorse the declaration ahead of the 26th Human Rights Council Session scheduled to be held in Geneva from 10 to 26 of June 2014 to discuss a proposed legally binding international instrument on business and human rights to be included within the UN system.

Given the fact that voluntary and self regulatory frameworks have failed consistently to regulate corporations, there is an urgent need for a legally binding treaty is adopted to regulate admittedly undemocratic organisations like corporations which have become bigger and more powerful than democratic governments.

5.    Reject K. Kasturirangan's Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy for Planning Commission dated May 12, 2014 which is eminently wrong in recommending waste incinerators under the influence of Isher Judge Ahluwalia, R.K. Pachuari, P. U. Asnani and A.K.Dhussa. Waste incineration is a tried, tested and failed technology in India. There are studies that have proved that harmful emissions, such as dioxins and suspended particulate matter, are way above the permissible limits.

It has been said that by 2025, India could become a $5 trillion economy, and among the top five in the world. If India does become a $5 trillion economy but get all its rivers polluted, food chain poisoned and genetic pool depleted at the behest of commercial czars, will it not be a pyrrhic victory.

Our new Prime Minister, his ministerial colleagues and advisers must ponder over such a scenario before following the path that has been paved by the previous governments’ policies and programs and consider reversing them.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org
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