To the shock of greens everywhere, Indian PM Modi, whose government has absolutely the worst environmental track record in the country’s history, has been declared a UN “Champion of the Earth”. However, coming from Erik Solheim, the UN environment chief facing a string of corruption allegations himself, this ‘honour’ may not be all that surprising.
On August 28, 2018, some of India’s leading land and human rights defenders were arrested or had their homes raided on charges of conspiring to assassinate the PM Narendra Modi, among other things. Here, we present their profiles and some selected writings/talks, as well as a video dossier of the draconian UAPA law, courtesy TheWire.in
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 Climate Home News: Perhaps the most egregious fix, given the prominence of the issue and its consequences for Indians’ health, is the Modi government’s attempts to defer a December 2017 deadline for air pollution standards for thermal power plants. Without these, India’s hopes of reducing deadly air pollution from its electricity sector are nixed.
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?
From PARI: The people of Aarey find their eviction and ‘rehabilitation’ absurd. Prakash Bhoir, 46, who lives in Keltipada, says, “We are Adivasis [he is a Malhar Koli]. This land is a source of income and survival for us. Can we do cultivation in those high-rise buildings? We just cannot live without soil and trees.”
It was supposed to be the site of western France’s biggest airport, but instead, it became the center of a utopian experiment. Hundreds of squatters –eco-warriors to some, green jihadis to others– now live in the ZAD, which resisted a eviction operation after a 2,500 strong police unit recently forced their way into the camp.
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 Transnational Institute: Women everywhere are leading struggles against corporate crimes and defending their communities and the dignity of all people, risking their lives in the process. To introduce our 2018 report on counter-power, we interviewed three women activists who have displayed incredible courage, determination and creativity to confront corporate power and state violence.
Richard Smith writes: The fundamental contradiction with capitalism is that maximizing profit and saving the planet are inherently in conflict and cannot be systematically aligned even if, occasionally they coincide for a moment. But saving the world requires that the pursuit of profits be systematically subordinated to ecological concerns— and this no corporation can do.
From Entitle Blog: The “Warning to Humanity” signed by more than 15.000 scientists calls for action to save the planet proposing elitist environmentalism and missing the real target. The problem is not in the “barbarian hordes” and the “overpopulation bogeyman” but in the West’s “imperial mode of living” that is now expanding around the world.
From ABC News: This eagerly awaited TV-documentary is the result of a months-long investigation into the Adani Group, made in the context of a bitter clash between citizen-groups and the Australian government over the company’s giant coal mine in Queensland. It offers a revealing look into the company’s controversial business practices and their global consequences.
Madhu Ramnath writes: Time and again we have heard that the Naxal insurgency is due to “under development” in areas like Bastar. Education is also supposed to deter Naxalism, according to some, but one may ask whose education? Fundamentally it’s about respect, dignity and trust in our behaviour towards others, in this case the Adivasi.
Kumar Sundaram writes in The Ecologist: Dubbing nuclear energy as a solution to climate change has been a key strategy of the Indian government for selling nuclear projects to the public as well as justifying the spree of nuclear agreements with other countries. Here are three reasons why this is not feasible, desirable and cost-effective.
Frontline reports: Across the country, large tracts of land are being earmarked for exclusive solar power parks. The rocky terrain of Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch district has emerged as the largest solar power-generating hub in India, but the nomadic communities that have lived there for generations find themselves dispossessed of land and reduced to abject poverty.
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.
Heera Bai reports: Across the Tribal Belt of Central India, indigenous communities are constantly being evicted from ancestral lands to make way for development projects, industry, tourism and government-sanctioned conservation initiatives. In the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Baiga community have faced a legacy of evictions that dates back more than 30 years.
From People’s Media: In January 2017, two people were killed when the police fired on villagers in Bhangar, in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district. They were protesting the forcible acquisition of their fertile agricultural land for a proposed powerg-rid substation. Read reports and watch a short film made on location, as the events unfolded.