Re-thinking the relationship between Southern and Northern civil societies in enhancing ecological democracy: A case of South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy
IN SEARCH OF SUSTAINABILITY
Defining ecological democracy is one of the tasks before us in this seminar. The concept is a new one and has to be debated and defined in fora like this seminar where people from different cultures and movements have come together.
New concepts such as ecological democracy need to evolve so that we can move forward in a search for sustainability. Sustainability has been a focus and object of fierce debate for several decades now even as large segments in the North remain which see nature as a resource only for their use and consumption. Their institutions that have the responsibility to produce planners and decision makers actually are reinforcing such insensitivity.
If we would focus our thinking of sustainability on cultures, societies and communities instead of economy and technology we could achieve more clarity and greater impact. In my view there are many sustainable societies around the world whose way of living should be a model for us both in the South and the North. Such communities may be found abundantly in rural areas of the developing countries. They may be indigenous communities, subsistence farmers, fisher communities, artisans or local service providers. If their means of subsistence (such as land and water) are in place, members of these communities may have sufficient and healthy diet and clothing and housing that serves needs.
I am not proposing to be romantic about simple living that is often also referred to as poverty. When the means of subsistence of such communities are taken by land grabbing, industrial development, pollution of water sources or other such processes, the people fall easily into destitution and misery. These adverse processes have to be addressed and reversed so that the communities with sustainable way of living may continue and evolve into a direction desired by the people.
One of the main pressures on these kind of sustainable communities come from societies that can be labeled unsustainable or have fallen prey to the consumerist cultures.
In view of this, M. K. Gandhi, India’s Father of the Nation, reminds us of the following quotation: “The nature has enough for every human’s need but not for somebody’s greed.”
If we followed these words of M.K. Gandhi, we would be, perhaps, leading simple and stress-free life in our respective countries or maybe, contemplating to make the world more beautiful, peaceful and ecologically more democratic, diverse and sound. But sadly, we are here to take a look at the damages we have done to the Mother Earth – the damages that have been done carelessly because we think more about our greed, about reckless consumption than about protecting the scarce natural resources that selflessly provide to us everything. We seem to have forgotten that the natural resources are not infinite. Most of them are depleting or disappearing very fast.
Gandhi had warned against destruction and violence. He also spoke against technology without a human face. In fact, he saw modern technology as a tool for increasing bodily comforts and consequently decreasing attention to the inner being and the state of the soul. Today in India, the federal government dependent on the Left parties for its survival is talking about linking rivers, like the previous government, in the name of providing water to the thirsty. But, does the proposal have a human face? In my view, by linking rivers, the Indian government is single-minded to de-link and displace people particularly the adivasis or indigenous people living in the forest areas, damage biodiversity and cause death to wildlife at a large scale and carry the heavy pollution of some of the rivers nationwide. Linking of rivers and forcing the waters to flow through man-made channels could also result in water-logged soils and hence a more damaged agriculture.
It is regrettable that even our President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a reputed scientist, seems to be in favour of river-linking. It is likely that the devastating floods in the northern and north-eastern states of Bihar and Assam and in neighbouring Bangladesh almost every year might have prompted him to reiterate his advice of linking national rivers. However, the subject of linking river basins calls for fresh and people oriented perspectives. To understand the dynamics of floods, we must also understand what Dinesh Mishra, an eminent Indian engineer, has to say. According to him, flood control is neither possible nor desirable. “What a farmer needs is flood that comes, rejuvenates his fields, fills all the tanks, raises or maintains the water table, and goes. This invariably is associated with seasonal inconveniences, which is what the politicians and engineers have cashed in on. ”
Besides, the new draft environment policy of the Congress-led UPA government has only acknowledged the Water Policy of 2002 of the previous NDA government.
Then, there are controversial projects like Baglihar. Pakistan has already raised questions regarding the Baglihar hydroelectric power project on the Chenab river. The project is located in Indian Kashmir and, in the eyes of Pakistan, it violates the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. According to Pakistan, Chenab is not the river on which the treaty allows India to build any barrages beyond a certain specification. Similar problems are between India and Nepal. High dams on the borders of these two countries like Pancheshwar are bone of contention. Similarly, there is no long lasting solution between India and Bangladesh over sharing of Ganga river waters.
The point is that the problems related to the ecological issues are not limited to the specific areas and specific local issues. They have huge dimensions spreading out to all parts of the world in different forms and with differing levels of gravity. Gandhi visualised the scenario long back. Now, like Gandhi, ecologists too are expressing alarm regarding the survival of the planet Earth. It is estimated that each year European nations alone dump more than 700,000 tons of mercury, nitrogen, phosphorous, cadmium, lead, zinc, etc., into the North Sea. Have we ever thought who are we to cause agonising death to thousands of seals and damage marine ecosystem as a whole?
Actually, there is violence in the manner the progress of industrialised world has been paid for by the developing world. The Third World continues to be a dumping ground for toxic waste problems of the industrialised world. You would agree that this argument of ecological debt of the South is justified. And, if it is justified, who is going to own the responsibility of causing irreparable damages to the Mother Earth for last 500 years and how much is the cost of damages so far and who is going to pay for them and in what manner?
For the moment, the answer is not to follow a path dominated by high technology that even generates non-degradable and hazardous junk including nuclear waste. I think, such a threat might have prompted Gandhi to warn India against following the path dominated by destructive technology. His firm belief was that if India were to attain real freedom, the people had no way but to live in villages and huts, and not in urban areas and palaces. This principle applies to all regions in the world.
I must tell you that we can realise this goal by not succumbing to greed, by leading simple life with dignity. There are communities in the South or may be even in the North that are in all humility absorbed in simple and dignified life-styles with content and fulfilment. The richness of life has also inculcated in them the sense of belonging to Nature and not disturbing the ecology. The Muslim indigenous Gujjars in the Central Himalaya are just one example. They with their cattle live in the forest areas, a large number of them are vegetarians and do not disturb the ecology. Instead, they conserve and strengthen it in their own way.
What I have found strange here during my first visit ever to the North is that a lot of people here are concerned about saving their environment or the ecology of the world as a whole, but can they do it without doing away with too much of privacy and not sharing with others?
Could they listen to what writer, philosopher and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, had tried to say. Thoreau had moved, from 1845 to 1847, to a hut on the edge of Walden Pond, a small glacial lake near Concord, guided by the maxim “Simplify, simplify.”
His goal was to simplify his life by living simply. He did that by facing only the essentials of life, by strictly limiting his expenditures, his possessions, and his contact with others. Even a century later, in 1954, E.B. White wrote about the relevance of Thoreau’s philosophy in The Yale Review: “Thoreau, very likely without quite knowing what he was up to, took man’s relation to nature and man’s dilemma in society and man’s capacity for elevating his spirit and he beat all these matters together, in a wild free interval of self-justification and delight, and produced an original omelette from which people can draw nourishment in a hungry day.”
Today, Thoreau’s or Gandhi’s philosophy is most relevant as human’s symbiotic relation with nature is extremely threatened. It is as if we have stopped thinking about going back to our old days and ways. The issue of over consumption is serious – be it Finland, any other country of the North or even a developing country like India. However, I would like to emphasise that the largest population of the Third World is not the biggest threat to the environment. In fact, it is the level of consumption that threatens the environment and not the number of people. I am not defending the ever growing phenomenon of population but it remains a fact that more than one billion people in India are much less of a threat to the environment than the much smaller populations of many countries of the North, who have much higher rates of consumption. Actually, our development model and the economic system have added fuel to the fire. These have encouraged consumerism and the resultant waste of natural resources. So far economic and social aspects have dominated the discussion of sustainability. Mainstream thinking is that economic growth is the first step so people can come out of poverty and thereafter take care of the environment also. The environment has been considered primarily as fine-tuning of industrial processes so that the adverse impact would be less. For most of us environmentalists this is not satisfying as the contemporary global economy is causing irreversible damage to the nature that is just not acceptable. Neglect towards sustainable cultures of adivasis or indigenous people living in forests or remote areas, is also prevalent, which is a serious matter. Could we all – from North and South and especially activists from freethinking countries like Finland – come together to join the South-North dialogue on these issues and collectively turn the tide?
The prevalent economic pattern has deeply impacted the consumption patterns in the Northern countries in particular. I want to ask, why are you destroying some of the last fragments of ancient forests in northern Europe? Is not it only to meet over consumption of paper, timber and heating wood? No doubt that some conscientious organisations like Siemenpuu Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Coalition for Environment and Development are campaigning for the protection of the last five percent of old-natural forests in Finland and Sweden but have they been able to force their government to export timber to other countries? Countries like Finland must only log their artificial forests.
It is a matter of concern that the new technologies for destroying nature, and consuming natural resources, are being adopted increasingly while the efforts and technology for protecting and regenerating nature are directionless. Much of this ecological irrationality is inherent in an inequitable social system, where only a privileged few can enjoy the benefits of destroying nature, while most others face only the consequences. Why the US is allowed to consume devastatingly? Most of the petroleum products are consumed in that country and emission of hazardous gases at the highest level ensured. And, there are no signs of re-thinking on the issue. This re-thinking has to come from the US society itself.
Why they are being allowed to kill people in other countries and get their own soldiers killed for the control of petroleum resources?
Why they are allowed to control natural resources and politics of Southern countries in the name of security and fighting terrorism?
Have they been able to find weapons of mass destruction in our part of the world?
Cannot the experience of well-known environmentalist, Ms. Rachael Carsson, and her monumental work “The Silent Spring” open the eyes of the US and enthuse people there like they have done elsewhere?
Here it would be appropriate to quote Shekhar Singh, an Indian environmental academician, who is of the view that the enlightened and progressive societies must develop a broad social consensus on the environment, especially on what needs to be conserved, where, and how, as natural environment in the world is under severe and increasing threat due to large-scale destruction of forests, pollution, and overuse patterns. According to him, the society must also develop a systemic, institutional and individual capacity, and the political and administrative will, to carry forward the agenda. Besides, a social consensus on the environment must be based on a realistic appreciation of the status of the environment and a proper understanding of the implications of environmental degradation.
A SMALL VILLAGE EXAMPLE:
The presence of what Gandhi and Thoreau said is in this example of ecological austerity in a Central Himalayan hamlet. Some thirty-five years back in my small village in the Central Himalaya or the new Indian state of Uttarakhand, everybody would fell trees in the community forest in violation of the traditional practices. Practically, there was no check on anybody and as a consequence, the oak and rhododendron trees started disappearing fast. To stop this, the village elders decided to put checks. Now, the same forest is again dense and a good habitat for the wildlife. The water bodies down below have enough water unlike most of the villages in the area. My village, called Onchar, is continuing to supply water to several other villages.
This example contradicts the assumption that the common people are not sufficiently concerned and informed about nature and natural processes, to make responsible decisions.
Similarly, Devarkaadu or deva vana – forests devoted to the Goddess Nature or the local deities – by village folks of India are other examples. Such forests assiduously protect forest lands consisting of rare trees, herbs, and medicinal plants and are spread all over India. Ayurveda or the organic, non-chemical Indian life science tradition has undoubtedly developed due to herbs and medicinal plants found in plenty. This example also gives a picture of what happens when society or people participate in taking responsibility of preserving forest lands.
And, how many of us bother to assess the fact who uses and controls whose natural resources, for what purpose, and why. In other words, the key to social justice is the equitable harnessing of social and natural resources, both locally and globally. Equitable distribution automatically strengthens the symbiotic relationship between human and nature and contributes towards the ecological democracy. Luckily, the people’s movements of India i.e. the movements of the farmers, dalits, indigenous people, environmentalists, etc., played an important role in making water, water supply and economics of water a part of agenda of India representing at Johannesburg world environmental conference. And it turned out to be a major path-breaker at the conference.
One more fact is that the degradation of the environment has led to the degradation of human dignity. This is manifestly evident in several parts of the world. According to estimates WHO, over 20 percent of all communicable diseases in India are due to poor quality of water. The proportion is much higher in terms of infant mortality. A large proportion of Indian cities have unhealthy levels of air pollution, especially in terms of total suspended particulates (TPS). Perhaps a third of India’s population, the poorest third, still depended directly and desperately on nature for their daily requirements of water and energy, and for their livelihoods. For them, the destruction of forests, the drying up of water resources, the depletion of the top soils and the overall degradation of the environment is a disaster waiting to happen.
It is also absolutely essential, according to Vandana Shiva, to understand and perceive the covert as well as explicit demands on forest resources to evolve a forest policy that is ecologically sensitive and socially just, so that our forest and land resources can be used for the overall satisfaction of the needs of the nation and the people in an equitable and sustainable manner.
In another words, no real democracy can take place as long as there is threat to the ecology and the rights of the indigenous people. A study conducted by an Austrian agency has already warned that 80 years from now, the planet will be divided into clear winners and losers. And India, the world’s second most populous country, will be the biggest loser from global warming. Losing millions of tons of its potential cereal harvest each year because of climate change.
THE BIG QUESTIONS:The question is, why we, the humans, are ignoring the fact that all life forms on Mother Earth depended absolutely on her vitality, diversity, and beauty? Why are we bent upon diminishing or depleting the finite resources? Isn’t it our duty to use these resources very judiciously and economically and then pass them on to the next generation without diminishing them if we cannot improve them?
VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM PHILOSOPHY-ECOLOGICAL DEMOCRACY:
I am given to understand that the Siemenpuu Foundation was set up with the idea to discourage over consumption patterns, thus not to make it just another funding agency. We from South foresee that this dream can become a reality if all of us here representing different segments and nations join in making Siemenpuu Foundation or such other organisations a South-North dialogue forum for a common sustainable future. Those who know about the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or VK philosophy of considering the whole world as one family would understand that the VK framework has a lot to offer in this regard because VK is about a coalition for comprehensive democracy, is about furthering, strengthening and deepening democracy simultaneously in economic, social, political, cultural, gender and ecological dimensions of life, from local to global levels.
Environmental degradation – pollution of air, water and soil, loss of species and biodiversity, destruction of the ozone layer, destabilisation of the climate, loss of tree and vegetative cover, soil erosion and desertification – is one of the most serious issues of our time. It should be high priority for the ecological movement. For example, the Central Himalayan region is among the most threatened ecozones in South Asia.
As part of VK philosophy, we have taken up the work there rigorously under the SADED programme. The idea is to make the region a peace park in every possible sense and then extend the idea to the whole Himalayan region that extends from Kashmir to the North-eastern parts of India traversing some 2,500 km. long stretch.
We, at the South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy/Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (SADED/CSDS), Delhi, India – a programme supported by the Siemenpuu Foundation, Finland – are trying to re-think the symbiotic relationship between human and nature.
With this commitment in mind, we are reaching out to the individuals, working among the peoples’ organisations and local communities and engaging them in dialogues. We have learnt that mere discussions in the boardrooms are not going to contribute towards the strengthening of the ecological democracy, which the local communities have long cherished and nourished with the help of their indigenous knowledge systems.
Also, the SADED/ CSDS programme is in steady and serious dialogue with the various South Asian groups engaged in the field of ecological democracy in order to build a network of the ecological activists and groups and develop positive understanding with them to achieve the larger goal of establishing “ecodemo” or ecological democracy in whole of South Asia.
Setting goals is not difficult but translating them into reality is very challenging and we, at SADED/CSDS, are trying to scale the heights of this difficulty for which we need committed and wide participation, adequate manpower and resources, and a specific time frame.
PARTICIPATION OF SOUTH ASIAN ECOLOGICAL GROUPS:
As part of our formal/informal dialogue process, we visualise participation of several ecological groups and prominent eco-activists from countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the December 2004 meet IN Lahore, Pakistan. The Southern world must play its role to build the global ecological democracy. Issues like privatisation of water in several parts of the world need such dialogues to take place.
Our present efforts to strengthen and consolidate the ecological democracy dialogues in South Asia began with our association with the Siemenpuu Foundation some two years back. The overall objective of SADED/CSDS programme is to prevent deepening of the crises in South Asia–that have roots in ecology and natural resource use patterns and consolidate ecological dialogues in the critical ecozones such as Central Himalaya by providing logistic, academic, and ethical support to the local people as well as civil society groups so that they have a platform to share their local/ indigenous ecological wisdom with each other. In a nutshell, we wish to emphasise that all efforts in the ecological, social, political, economic and cultural spheres need to be translated into action, so as to realise the dream of comprehensive democracy with the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (world as one family) perspective.
Outcome: The workshops that have been conducted so far under the SADED/CSDS project have shown tangible results like increased knowledge among the environmental movement activists and individuals on burning issues and a greater understanding of the vision enshrined in the vernacular wisdom.
EXPERIENCES DURING DIALOGUES AND THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY:
One more thing needs attention. During SADED/CSDS engagements and dialogues with different ecological/social groups, working particularly in the Central Himalaya and several other parts of India, we found that the civil society needed to be quite transparent in its activities so as to win confidence of the local communities and convince them that it stood by them. Local media is also very aggressive due to non-transparency of most of the NGOs. Those NGOs also face difficulties, which reach out to the people with the intention to educate them.
We, at SADED/CSDS, already believe that vernacular wisdom is more appropriate in any locality than the imported knowledge systems. This clarity has driven us to give due respect and importance to the people’s indigenous knowledge systems that have been strengthening the ecological democracy in their respective regions. Always it is our attempt not to give an impression that we knew better than them. The main thrust has been to bring different ecological groups and individuals together and allow them to have free and frank dialogues on the ecological issues. In fact, we have learnt so many things from the rural and local people about their respective ecological systems. The point is, this is how we at SADED/CSDS visualise the role of civil society.
BRIDGING THE GAP:
Despite a level of distrust between people and the civil society, SADED/CSDS programme has been able, to an extent, to build bridges between the civil society and the local people, of course not by teaching them but by learning from them. In most cases we found that their methods to protect or conserve ecology were better and based on people’s science and involved no money or very little amount. Their time-tested ecological knowledge systems, accumulated over generations, are indeed most appropriate for themselves. You will also find several such examples in other parts of India or elsewhere. As part of our direct link to the local people, SADED/CSDS played its role in preparing the draft of an alternative or people’s water policy for the Central Himalayan state of Uttaranchal/ Uttarakhand. Now, several groups are planning action on the basis of the proposals in that draft.
Now, we have plans to bring together the representatives of more local organisations, communities and individuals and facilitate them further to share their experiences in ecology with each other. Such spadework is bound to push further the movement for ecological democracy and ultimately strengthen the comprehensive democracy based on the VK principles. Besides Central Himalaya (Uttarakhand), our initiatives in the states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi, etc., have been encouraging. As focus of SADED/CSDS phase-two is on Uttarakhand (a mountainous land of long history of ecological struggles/movements), we are bringing out a volume about the development and ecological dimensions/aspects of the region. Besides, a directory of the ecological /environmental activists/workers of the region – including famous Sunderlal Bahuguna, Vandana Shiva and Chandi Prasad Bhatt – is being compiled and interviews being assigned to record experiences/ memoirs of the ecological activists in particular.
As regards engaging State productively, the scene is depressing. There is one example from the Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. The ecological activists wanted to see the chief minister to tell him that the World Bank guided water policy would prove to be anti-people and an alternative people’s policy was the only solution. But the bureaucracy did not allow, as it did not take the civil society representatives very seriously. The appointment was fixed with the chief minister for a day when representatives were hardly available in the state capital of Dehradun.
Everybody knows that the governments and the multilateral agencies have been talking loud about engaging the civil society but the lackadaisical attitude of the government machinery especially does not want the civil society to assert itself and play its role effectively. Corruption in bureaucracy and in large number of NGOs is also discouraging the process. This is the picture in most of the South Asian countries. In view of this, civil society necessarily has to tread cautiously and play its role with total transparency, and with a sense of commitment to democracy. Here is one example how the bureaucracy functions.
The community water programme Swajal or water belonging to the local people, assisted by the World Bank, did not bring cheers to anybody in the Central Himalaya. Swajal programme was started in 1996 in the water scarce region besides Bundelkhand in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The project envisaged covering 650 villages in the Uttarakhand region alone but the programme was an absolute failure as the village water and sanitation committees formed to look after the planning, execution/ implementation, monitoring and maintenance of the project concerned, were turned ineffective due to undue interference of the state officials. So, what sort of state participation we are talking about?
The effect of several decades of formal development planning is that local communities have had little opportunity to contribute their voices. This exclusion of local perspectives and priorities lies at the heart of ill-conceived policies and a growing cynicism amongst people about governments’ commitment to meeting their needs. As we have just entered a new century, there is an urgent need for the funding agencies, governments, as well as NGOs to be signatories to people-oriented agenda that recognise the need to advance beyond definitions of prosperity based on economic returns to include ecological and social equity.
Therefore, it is important that NGOs create a set of solid policy guidelines for themselves taking into account all considerations related to the ecological, economic and social aspects and integrate themselves with the policy and planning at the local levels identifying needs, priorities and constraints of the communities.
Simultaneously, there is vital need to analyse in greater depth the complex relationship between prosperity, poverty and environmental degradation. Poverty and inequality are inseparably linked to lack of control of land, skills, capital and information, which perpetuate people’s limited access to institutions, personnel and services of the wider political economy. Efforts to eradicate poverty and marginality must identify how processes of modernisation are contributing to a weakening of traditional linkages between cultural and physical systems. And, we at SADED/CSDS are committed to achieve the goal of bridging the gap between people, civil society and the state. We know that these three segments have an important role to reinforce the symbiotic relationship between nature and the living beings. As regards the role of the civil society as a whole, I would like to give a recent example from Uruguay where the voters have not only made a dramatic shift to the Left but also approved a conditional reform that defines water as public good and guarantees participation of the civil society at every level of management of the country´s water resources.
NORTHERN-SOUTHERN ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES:
As regards discourse of the West and among the westernised organisations in the South is often alienating for the majority of the people. A better approach is to concentrate on people’s unhindered access to the natural resources – not for their greed but for their need – and integrate the various environmental and conservational concerns in such an approach. Humankind’s relationship with nature as consumer, controller, nurturer, destroyer, or as a small component of nature are all issues to be dealt with under the rubric of ecological democracy.
The human beings are part of the natural world and as has been said in the Charter of the Global Greens that we have to respect the specific values of all forms of life, including non-human species. Also, there is limited scope for the material expansion of human society within the biosphere, and the need to maintain biodiversity through sustainable use of renewable resources and responsible use of non-renewable resources.
As Northern and Southern ecological perspectives are yet to match, there is an urgent need for re-thinking the relationship between Southern and Northern civil societies. Before coming on the common platform much more vigorously, both the segments will have to make an assessment of their respective past experiences. Only then, common ecological agenda are possible. SADED/CSDS is trying similar understanding in the South Asian region.
Also, the supporting agencies of North need to build long-term association with the partners working in the Southern World. Funds are needed on flexible basis with an enhanced trust so as to cement a bond between Northern and Southern Movement groups. The funding criteria, amounts involved, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are not always appropriate thus not leading to the desired development goals. Luckily, Siemenpuu Foundation has given us total freedom to work.
There is no doubt that the existing relationship between Northern and Southern NGO partnership presents challenges to effective management of ecological resources. It is a reality that we have to resist one-way globalisation and re-fashion the sustainable development model on a priority basis.
While the role of Northern NGOs’ financial support to their Southern partners in relation to other capacity building strategies such as exchange information services, lobbying campaigns, etc., is vital and these components are addressing appropriate issues, it is rather clear that funding is not the only basis to become partners.
Outcome: SADED/CSDS expects the august audience here to suggest effective NGO development co-operation that takes place in both financial and capacity building needs. A Joint Capacity Building Process, proposed by organisations like Siemenpuu Foundation, could be a starting point in the direction of capacity building strategies.
And, co-operation could be based on a basket support programme in which thematic needs and geographical considerations are taken into account. The joint capacity building process could also organise co-funding activities, information exchange amongst the networking NGOs and strategies for lobbying political support and structural engagement of states in programme areas. Besides, NGOs should also find ways to mobilise money locally and ensure people’s participation at a satisfactory levels.
HOW TO MAKE FOREIGN FUNDING EFFECTIVE?
The effectiveness of foreign funding agencies in supporting Southern NGOs’ efforts to promote fair and inter-generational access to the ecological resources by local communities has not come of age till now. A sense of disregard for NGOs or absence of faith in them hampers the goal set by the funding agencies. But for the mess, NGOs themselves are more responsible as they are involved in misutilising, underutilising or marginally utilising the funds provided by the supporting agencies, foreign or domestic. How many NGOs meet the criteria set by themselves or by the supporting agencies? Inadequate monitoring system on part of the funding agencies and their not very good understanding of the overall environment of the countries in which funds are sent is yet another problem.
Now, the question is how to utilise the funds from Northern NGOs to organise communities and individuals against abuse of ecological resources, for example, privatisation or commercialisation of commonly owned natural resources such as water, the finite natural resource that covers more than two-thirds of the earth, but only a small part of it is suitable for drinking and irrigation and is distributed unevenly among countries.
my colleague in India, Dr. Uma Shankari, has pertinent questions in her mind as to whether we have been able to make the planet any greener than before and has it arrested or even slowed down the rate of depletion of natural resources. My answer to her questions is that even if we have not been able to slow down the rate of depletion, certainly we have been able to make us uderstand that saving the earth is of the utmost importance and signficance.
I started my presentation with a quotation of M. K. Gandhi, fully knowing that the globalisation process is driven by two mainsprings – technology and the wave of deregularisation, privatisation, liberalisation of capital flows of global trade. Now, allow me to conclude my presentation by quoting Kishen Pattnayak – one of the most original thinkers of our times in India and a radical Socialist leader to the core who passed away in September this year. Pattnayak was of the view that the world was not without alternatives and I believe that there is an alternative to modern patterns of development and over consumption, hence another world is possible!
This I say as I keep in mind that the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was unprecedented and significant and now, the places like Seattle, Porto Alegre, Davos or even Mumbai have become symbols for the trial of strength, which is between sections of the global society with conflicting interests, visions, and backgrounds.
Taking all words of mine into account, I propose:
- That we form regional ecological groups that keep watch on the respective ecological regions and monitor the activities at different levels by different agencies and people. The responsibilities of such groups will also include studying the natural resources use patterns and protection, conservation and strengthening of the same.
- Critical ecozones like Himalaya need urgent attention and action. In view of this, the Himalayan nations need to ensure safety, security of people living in such ecozones.
- For the protection of the whole Himalaya that extends to some 2500 kilometres efforts at global level are required for the declaration of the Himalayan Region as a Peace park free of all pollutants like WMDs, nukes, nuke garbage, forest felling, over use of water resources/water bodies, besides, all round safety of peoples living in the South Asian region remains our main concern.
References and Acknowledgements:
- Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam India publications
- Conversations with Vijay Pratap, Rajendra Dhasmana, Marko Ulvila, and Hemant Kumar Panchal
- Charter of the Global Greens-2001
- UN Documents
- Hindu Folio-July 2001
- CSE India journals
- AFP-India Faces Catastrophic Crop Loss Through Global Warming (2001)
- Paul Routledge-Terrains of Resistance (1993)
- Ted Case Studies – Chipko Movement
- Bharat Dogra – Tehri Dam Struggle at Crucial Stage (1995)
- Marita Ishwaran- Environment and Human Rights
- Kazimuddin Ahmed – Forests on Fire (1999)
- Sanjay Tewari – Slope Stability Effect of Forests in Garhwal Himalaya (2001)
- Ajay Upret i- To Fetch a Pail of Water (1998)
- R. Ramachandran – The Receding Gangotari (2001)
- The Nainital Samachar
- Bharat Dogra – Linking Environment Protection to People’s Livelihood (2000)
- John Kutzbach/Terry Devitt – Effect of Rise of Himalayas on World Climate Probed
- India Profile21 (1997)
- India Resources21 (1997)
- Darryl D’Monte – Big Dams Are No Good (2001)
- Tisha Srivastav – The True Eco-Friend (2001)
- US Environmental Protection Agency – Global Warming and its Impact (2001)
- World Development Report (1992)
- The Constitution of India
- Vandana Shiva (1988)
- The World Bank Reports brought out in collaboration with the Indian Union Water Resources Ministry (2000)
- Suresh Nautiyal- Dhad Uttarakhand (1994)
- Suresh Nautiyal- Comprehensive Eco-Strategy for Uttarakhand (2001)
- Keynote Address of Professor GOP Obasi (Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organisation) at the International Conference on Science and Technology Capacity Building in Climate Change in New Delhi on 20 October, 2002
- Suresh Nautiyal – Water Crisis in India, Agenda for Future
- Writings of Shekhar Singh
- Vandana Shiva – Ecology and the Politics of Survival – Conflicts Over Natural Resources in India
- Manjari Mehta: Cultural Diversity in the Mountains (2001)
- Uttarakhand Prabhat Hindi fortnightly
- Kamla Chowdhary – Gandhi’s Truth-Survival in the Twenty First Century (Lokayan Bulletin, March-April 1997)
- Down to Earth – an eco-magazine of India
- Gazettier of India
- Dialogues on Riverlinking – Yahoo Group; etc.
Presentation at SIEMENPUU FOUNDATION’S
INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC SEMINAR ON 4TH OF NOVEMBER 2004, ARTHUR HOTEL, HELSINKI, FINLAND.