ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECOLOGICAL MOVEMENTS

 

Practice  Question – Evaluate the nature and scope of anthropogenic influence on Climate in India and also analyze the environmental movements arising out of it. [UPSC 2020]

Approach  – Introduction,  Briefly explain about man-made impacts on climate of India, What are the environmental movements arising out of it?, Give contemporary examples of Climate change movements, national efforts in compliance with international treaties, etc. Conclusion

 

INTRODUCTION

Environmental movements in India have emerged from 1970s onwards as critiques of state sponsored forms of development. Natural resource based conflicts over the access and use of natural resources in different parts of the country lie at the centre of these environmental movements. These movements have resisted ‘increasing commodification and monopolization of natural resources like land, water, forests, their unsustainable use and unequal distribution, exploitative power relations, the centralization of decision making and disempowerment of communities caused by the development process. They asserted people’s rights over natural rights and decision making processes.

Environmental and ecological movements are among the important examples of the collective actions of several social groups. Protection and recognition of constitutional and democratic rights, which are not defined by law but form an important part of the day to day living of the subaltern masses like the control over their resources, the right of indigenous people to preserve their culture, protection of environment and maintenance of ecological balance are significant concerns of these movements, as they affect the human life to a great extent.

 

ECO-POLITICS

The term eco-politics is of recent origin. Eco-politics is about interrelationship and mutual connection between environmental and political issues. Earlier, the ecological issues were paid attention only if they concerned national defense or collective security such as nuclear fall out or oil scarcity. Over the time, the focus has got extended to issues of development. Ecopolitics pleads for a value-based regulations regarding the use of natural resources in a manner that on one hand it prevents narrow unilateral exploitation and on the other hand, ensues equitable distribution of fruits of development.

 

DEVELOPMENT Vs SUSTAINABILITY

Development is an extremely nebulous, deceptive and therefore ambiguous concept. It is usually associated with modernisation, industrialisation, urbanisation, science and technology. It essentially connotes change, growth and progress. Industrial revolution epitomized this view of development, resulting in a grave error so far as environmental interests are concerned.

Developing countries consist of poor and the powerless. All efforts for speedy economic development through industrialisation in these countries have given more and more
power to the financial and political elites. Degradation of environment has occurred due to both chronic poverty and uneven industrialisation. The general situation is such that the elites pay only lip service to environmental values and actually go on ecological rampaging. Even if they value environment they are often unwilling to part with the profits. Their stock defence and ready excuse is contained in their argument about lack of financial viability and absence of viable technical know-how to clean up.

The political system is usually repressive of general and particularly environmental dissent. It is often expressed as well as put down violently. Protests to safeguard the environment are often viewed and dismissed by the elite interest. Thus, the situation in developing countries are sensitive and crucial. Such issues as land degradation, desertification, deforestation and pollution of air, water and soil by industries either remain ignored or inadequately and nominally attended. All in all, the poverty, resulting degradation and insensitive political system
make the matters worse.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENTS IN INDIA

The environmental movement is a broad generic term which is generally used to describe and understand different types of local struggles and conflicts concerned with livelihood issues and ecological security within the larger context of the development debate. These struggles in fact critiqued and questioned the notion of development and conservation ecology pursued by the Indian state and its officials since colonial time. The genesis of the environmental movement in India can be traced to the Chipko movement (1973) in Garhwal region in the new state of Uttranchal. In fact, between 1970s and 1980s there were several struggles in India around issues of rights to forest and water which raised larger ecological concerns like rights of communities in forest resources, sustainability of large scale environmental projects like dams, issues of displacement and rehabilitation etc.

The Indian environmental movement is critical of the colonial model of development pursued by the post–colonial state. The post–independent state failed to build up a development agenda based on the needs of the people and continued to advocate the modern capitalist agenda which led to the destruction of environment, poverty and marginalisation of rural communities. Formation of national parks, sanctuaries, protected areas in India, in fact represents the conventional environmentalism which the Indian state advocated with the aim of preserving wildlife and biodiversity by pushing people out of these areas. In response to this conventional environmentalism which considered the Indian state to be the custodian of natural resources, the environmental movement in India advocated the ideology of ‘environmentalism of the poor’. It not only criticised modern developmentalism but also strongly advocated the revival of traditional ‘self – sufficient village economy’. It brought communities to the centre stage of Indian environmental discourse.

 

POPULAR ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENTS IN INDIA

Chipko Movements

Chipko movement, launched to protect the Himalayan forests from destruction, has its’ roots in the pre-independence days. Many struggles were organised to protest against the colonial forest policy during the early decades of 20th century. Peoples’ main demand in these protests was that the benefits of the forest, especially the right to fodder, should go to local people. These struggles have continued in the post-independent era as the forest policies of independent India are no different from that of colonial ones. 

Three important aspects were responsible for the success of Chipko movement. First, the close links between the livelihoods of the local people and the nature of the movement. The local people consider Chipko as a fight for basic subsistence which have been denied to them by the institutions and policies of the State. In addition, specificity of the area where Chipko movement took place; involvement of women in the contribution to households’ subsistence and the overwhelming support to anti-alcohol campaign have led to the overwhelming support of women which is unique to the Chipko movement. The second aspect is with regard to the nature of agitation. Unlike other environmental movements Chipko has strictly adhered to the Gandhian tradition of freedom struggle, i.e., non–violence. Third, the simplicity and sincerity of the leaders like Sunderlal Bahuguna and their access to national leaders like Mrs. Indira Gandhi, other politicians and officials also helped to the success of the movement to a large extent.

Appiko Movement

Inspired by the Chipko movement the villagers of Western Ghats, in the Uttar Kannada region of Karnataka started Appiko Chalewali movement during September – November, 1983. Here the destruction of forest was caused due to commercial felling of trees for timber extraction. Natural forests of the region were felled by the contractors which resulted in soil erosion and drying up of perennial water resources. In the Saklani village in Sirsi, the forest dwellers were prevented from collecting usufructs like twigs and dried branches and non timber forest products for the purposes of fuelwood, fodder honey etc.They were denied of their customary rights to these products. In September 1983, women and youth of the region decided to launch a movement similar to Chipko, in South India.

Narmada Bachao Andolan

Narmada river project encompassing three major states of western India Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra is the most important case study in terms of maturation of
environmental movement and dynamics related to politics of development. No other development project in India has brought into focus the intensity of magnitude of ecodevelopment problems to such a level of informed debate, political mobilisation and grass root activism as this project. The controversy which surrounded this project has challenged the government at all levels and at the same time was successful in creating and forging linkages with civil society organisation and NGOs, both at the national and international level. In fact, it has contributed to the political discourse of alternative development in India. 

 

SUMMARY

To sum up, environmental and ecological movements became prominent in India since the 1970s, like other such movements. The concerns of these movement are not confined
to any particular groups. They are all encompassing – the entire village and urban communities, women, tribals, peasants, middle classes and nature. Even the issues raised by them concern all sections of society in varying degrees. These issues are: protection of people’s right to access of natural resources, prevention of land degradation, preventing commercialisation of nature resources and environmental pollution, maintenance of ecological balance, rehabilitation of displaced people, etc. These issues are also related
to people’s dignity, environmental rights and their decision-making rights on the issues concerning them

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