Individually, they are stories of courage and tragedy. Together, they tell a tale of a natural world under ever more violent assault. A series of portraits of people who are risking their lives to defend the land and environment today, from India to South Africa. Also read: ‘Why 2017 Was the Deadliest Year for Environmental Activists’
From Asian Age: Just as one wonders if one has reached a dead end, a new wave of environmental politics is emerging. The struggle against the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi stands is a major symbol of these movements. The politics of environment and the battles for livelihood become a microcosm for the democratic struggles today.
Kanak Mani Dixit, founding editor of ‘Himal Southasian’, writes: When ‘organic environmentalism’ rises from the grassroots and makes state authority accountable, South Asia and its peoples will be protected. At that point, no force will be able to stop activism across the frontiers and South Asia will begin to tackle pollution and dislocation as one.
Ratheesh Pisharody writes: The protest in Tuticorin and the police reaction to it is exactly what is expected in a society built on foundations of greed and injustice. Whose interest do you think the police is supposed to protect? Ours, the “middle class” of course. We need those cheap phones and air conditioners, don’t we?
Tribals make up 26% of Jharkhand’s population. Recently, many Adivasi villages in Jharkhand have put up giant plaques declaring their gram sabha as the only sovereign authority and banning ‘outsiders’ from their area. The Hindu reports on a political movement that is gathering steam across the State’s tribal belt, originally inspired by the PESA Act.
From The Guardian: This indigenous Purépecha town was dominated by illegal loggers, who clearcut local forests with the protection of a drug cartel, and the collusion of corrupt police and politicians. Eventually, the townspeople decided they had enough. In April 2011, local residents ran off the loggers, kicked out the mayor and banished political parties. David
Brazil, Colombia and Mexico top the list of countries where the most people die defending a patch of earth, a mountain, or a river. The region where most environmental activists die annually is taking action with a new landmark agreement. The “Escazu Accord” is only the second regional agreement on environmentalists’ rights in the world.
From The News Minute: These six environmental activists, not all of them well known, have been at the forefront of the fight against encroachment, destruction and contamination of the natural environment across Tamil Nadu. Also included is the video of a talk by one of the activists featured, Nityanand Jayaraman, on ‘A world without corporations.’
Louis Proyect writes: As a rentier state, Iran’s economy was based on handouts rather than the production of manufactured goods. Cheap oil and subsidies made the massive use of pumps feasible just as was the case in neighbouring Syria. Groundwater extraction nearly quadrupled between the 1970s and 2000 while the number of wells rose five-fold.
From The Guardian: Palawan is the Philippines’ last ecological frontier, home to most of the nation’s remaining forests and renowned as a global biological hotspot. But its also a magnet for those seeking to plunder the island’s natural wealth. PNNI, a small group of civilian para-enforcers are taking the rainforest’s protection into their own hands.
From National Geographic: Already battered by decades of shoddy environmental policies, which had hobbled agriculture and impoverished its inhabitants, villages across rural Iraq and Syria were in no state to navigate the extra challenges of climate change. When ISIS came along, many of them quickly emerged as some of the deep-pocketed jihadists’ foremost recruiting grounds.
Swati Bansal writes: The project envisages the building of many dams, canals and tunnels, which will lead to a huge social and environmental cost. The proposed Ken-Betwa link alone will destroy over 4,100 hectares of forests. If a single project of interlinking could accrue such an environmental cost, what will be the impact of 30?
A new report details widespread human rights abuses in the Congo Basin, by wildlife guards funded and equipped by the World Wildlife Fund and other big conservation organisations. It lists more than 200 instances of abuse since 1989, which are likely just a tiny fraction of systematic and ongoing violence, beatings, torture and even death.
It’s been said that the Sardar Sarovar dam would provide many with access to water and power. But there’s no such thing as a free thaali, as Gujaratis, of all people, must surely know. Someone has to bear the cost, and that cost, as with all major development projects, has been borne by the poor.
From The Guardian: Cities are expanding at a pace and scale far greater than at any time in history. The global urbanisation boom is devouring colossal amounts of sand–the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt. In the past few years, China alone has used more cement than the US used in the entire 20th century.
From The Wire: As the Gujarat government rushes to close the Sardar Sarovar dam gates ahead of elections, 40,000 residents of the Narmada valley are facing a nightmare of submergence. It’s this injustice and violence, and the development paradigm debate –development for whom and at what cost– that makes Narmada a litmus test for India.
From Counterview/Global Witness: A just-released global report has revealed that the number of land and environment defenders killed in India has almost trebled, from 6 in 2015 to 16 in 2016, blaming it on “a disturbing trend” of increasing police brutality, indicating the Modi government’s determination “to stifle opposition to ‘development’ by any means necessary.”
From Scroll.in: 60-year-old Anu Muhammad, the author of 30 books, has been getting repeated death threats for his role leading a seven-year campaign against plans to build a $1.5 billion coal-fired power plant in Rampal, southern Bangladesh, on a site teeming with waterways, mud flats and a host of threatened species from crocodiles to pythons.
The Bishnois may be considered as India’s first environmentalists. The famous ‘Chipko Movement’ was inspired by the true story of Amrita Devi Bishnoi, who refused to let the king’s men cut trees in her village. Her head was severed. More than 300 people who did the same were killed for trying to protect the trees.
‘Greenwashing’ has been defined as creating “a false or misleading picture of environmental friendliness used to conceal or obscure damaging activities.” Not something you would normally associate with the WWF, whose cute Panda logo has helped make it the face of wildlife conservation globally. But there’s more to the story, as this new report shows.