Friday, June 27, 2008

A Rich Nation of Poor People

In the first couple of years of the 21st century, something changed drastically and radically in India - and her relations with her populace and environment... India redefined its "tryst with destiny"

On January 26th, the Republic Day of 2001, the then President KR Narayanan refered to the "dilemmas of development" which India must carefully think through. He said:

"Let it not be said by future generations that the Indian Republic has been built on the destruction of green earth and innocent tribals who have been living there for centuries. Let it not be said of India, that this great Republic, in it surry to develop itself, is devastating the mother earth, and uprooting our tribal population.... The developmental path we have adapted is hurting them and threatening their very existence.... While the nation must benefit from the exploitation of these minerals resources, we will have to take into consideration the questions of environmental protection and rights of the tribals..."

Less than 3 years later, on November 1 2003, in a speech to the 19th World Mining Congress, the then President APJ Kalam contradicted the concerns of his predecessor:

""We should work for increasing the productivity from 0.5 tonnes per man year to 5 tonnes per man-year in underground coal mines using long wall mining and from 15 tonnes per man-year to 30 tonnes per man-year in open cast mines.... The fecilitation of project through provision of land, infrastructural development, community development, etc., can be done by the government agencies while the investments in the mines and associated technological inputs can come from the private sector... In addition, the private sector must have freedon to run the mine in a cost-effective manner..."

The implications of this U-turn can be viewed in perspective, if one recalls these statistics from an earlier posting:

  • If India's forest, mineral bearing areas, regions of tribal habitation and watershed are all mapped together, they will overlay each other on almost the same areas....

  • The three tribal-dominated states of Orissa, Chattisgarh, and Jharkhand... account for 70% of India's coal reserves, 80% of its high-grade iron ores, 60% of its bauxite and almost all its chromite reserves...

  • Of the top 50 mineral producing districts in the country, almost half are tribal. The average forest cover in these districts is 28%, much more than the national average of 20.9%... etc.

    ...and just to add to these, some more facts:

  • For every 1 per cent that mining contributes to India’s GDP, it displaces 3-4 times more people than all the development projects put together.

  • Forest land diversion for mining has been going up. So has water use and air pollution in the mining hotspots. An estimated 1.64 lakh hectare of forest land has already been diverted for mining in the country. For instance, the forests in Bardhaman have been decimated by mining. Iron ore mining in India used up 77 million tonne of water in 2005-06, enough to meet the daily water needs of more than 3 million people.

  • Mining of major minerals generated about 1.84 billion tonne of waste in 2006 - most of which has not been disposed off properly.... every tonne of coal extracted generates 3-4 tonne of wastes. ... Etc.

    So how has India redefined its "tryst with destiny"?

    We have become a Rich Nation...
    ...with Poor People, and an increasingly Depleted Environment!!

  • No comments: