The Anil Agarwal Dialogue, this time on the burning issue of Green Clearances, aims to bring to the fore the various issues and concerns related to environmental and forest clearances in India. Civil society activists attending the meet will now interact with senior government officials to evolve the agenda for reforms.
“IN A democratic country, things are being done in an undemocratic manner.” This statement by Krishna Murthy, an anesthetist who has been at the forefront of an intense villagers’ agitation against the government and industry in distant Sompeta (Andhra Pradesh), summed up the general mood at a gathering of non-governmental organisations from across India. This gathering, one of the biggest of its kind with 150 participants from about 100 organisations, is being organised in New Delhi for two days by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), as reported in the website of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
In Sompeta, farmers and fisherfolk are fighting a desperate battle to protect their wetlands against a coal-based thermal power project, the Nagarjuna CC power project. Murthy says the project will destroy the wetland and affect the livelihoods and water sources of the surrounding villages, and could lead to serious health problems.
Among the others attending this meet are activists like Onkar Vishwakarma and Suman Kumar Mehta from SANGRAM, an organisation working for the empowerment of adivasis in the Mathadih, Domchanchi and Koderma in Jharkhand. One of SANGRAM’s key areas of work is against illegal stone mining.
There is also Smita Patnaik, from the Narishwar Raksha Samiti, an organisation based in Angul, Odisha. Smita and her colleagues have been fighting for forest rights, as well as the rights of women and dalits – specifically, on issues such as the threat of displacement faced by indigenous tribes, and sexual exploitation of women in mining areas. Smita is clear that coal mining companies must invest in afforestation, periphery development and treating and managing their overburden.
Says CSE director general Sunita Narain: “On one hand, industry in our country is demanding quicker clearances. On the other, for the people who have come here (the civil society activists), environmental issues are a matter of their livelihoods and livelihood security – these issues and concerns can no longer be undermined,” reported CSE.
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