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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Hindu Editorial: To Be An Environmental World Power

Mahendra Guru
The Hindu Editorial: To Be An Environmental World Power

Title: To be an environmental world power

(Cross-border environmentalism is crucial for South Asia, but India is not inclined to take the lead)

Context:- Ecological ruin is on a gallop(सरपट चाल)across South Asia, with life and livelihood of nearly a quarter of the world’s population affected. Yet, our polities are able to neither fathom(Understand) nor address the degradation. 

Within each country, with politics dancing to the tune of populist consumerism, nature is without a guardian. The erosion of civility in geopolitics keeps South Asian societies apart when people should be joining hands across borders to save our common ground.

Because wildlife, disease vectors, aerosols and river flows do not respect national boundaries, the environmental trends must perforce be discussed at the regional inter-country level. As the largest nation-state of our region, and the biggest polluter whose population is the most vulnerable, India needs to be alert to the dangerous drift.

China has been resolutely tackling air pollution and promoting clean energy. 

But while Beijing’s centralised governance mandates environmentalism-by-decree, the subcontinental realities demand civic participation for sustainability to work.

The Indian state not only neglects its own realm, it does not take the lead on cross-border environmentalism.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has chosen India to be the ‘host country’ to mark World Environment Day today. But when will New Delhi rise to connect the dots between representative democracy and ecological sanity(अक़्लमंदी)?

Rivers into sewers

Truth be told, the environment ministry is invariably the least empowered in the major countries of South Asia, without clout vis-à-vis line ministries, and unable to coordinate the ecological response. 

In the hills, the Ganga in Uttarakhand and the Teesta of Sikkim are representative of rivers that have been converted into dry boulder tracts by ‘cascades’ of run-of-river hydroelectric schemes. The same fate now threatens the rivers of Nepal and India’s Northeast, while the tributaries of the Indus were ‘done in’ decades ago through water diversion.

Everywhere, natural drainage is destroyed by highways and railway tracks elevated above the flood line, and bunds encircling towns and cities. Reduced flows and urban/industrial effluents have converted our great rivers into sewers.

We fail to acknowledge that the rivers are made to carry hundreds of tonnes of plastics daily into the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

Ground fog, brown cloud

As the UNEP will be the first to insist, climate change is introducing massive disturbances to South Asia, most notably from the rise of sea levels. The entire Indian Ocean coastline will be affected, but the hardest hit will be the densely populated deltas where the Indus, the Irrawaddy and the Ganga-Brahmaputra meet the sea.

The retreat of the Himalayan glaciers is jeopardising the perennial(everlasting) nature of our rivers and climate scientists are now zeroing in on the ‘atmospheric brown cloud’ to explain the excessive melting of snows in the central Himalaya. This high altitude haze covers the Indo-Gangetic plains for much of the dry season and penetrates deep into the high valleys.

This cloud is made up of ‘black carbon’ containing soot and smog sent up by stubble burning, wood fires, smokestacks and fossil fuel exhaust, as well as dust kicked up by winter agriculture, vehicles and wind. It rises up over the plains and some of it settles on Himalayan snow and ice, which absorb heat and melt that much faster. It is no longer anecdotal(वास्तविक) that the icefalls of the Himalaya could before long transform into waterfalls.

Final Words

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.

Title: Farm friction

(The government must move purposefully to address the systemic malaise in agriculture)

Context:- Since June 1, many farmers are on an unusual 10-day ‘strike’ to draw the government’s attention to distress in the fields. A federation of 130 farmer bodies has decided to stop supplies of vegetables and dairy produce to major cities and hold a dharna on 30 national highways, without blocking vehicular passage.

Prices of vegetables and fruits are inching up in urban centres given the supply shock created by this ‘Gaon Bandh’; in cities like Mumbai fishermen have joined the cause. 

The farmers’ demands are not new — enhancement of the minimum support price regime for crops in line with the M.S. Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, higher prices for milk procurement and loan waivers to offset low or negative returns on investment. 

Leaving out vegetables, food prices rose by just 0.55% in the first four months of 2018 — almost a fourth of the average 2% rise recorded in the same months between 2014 and 2016. There is a supply glut(भरमार), and with a good monsoon expected, a healthy output could put additional pressure on prices. 

On June 6, 2017, some farmers were killed in police firing in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, during an agitation for better crop prices. There have been agitations across the country.

The current stir also derives from lack of tangible action on assurances made earlier and imperceptible movement on the Centre’s grand promises such as doubling farm incomes and raising MSPs. 

That the general elections are just a year away adds a political sub-text to the protest. Rural distress has dented the BJP’s electoral performance in recent months. 

Final Words

There has been dithering(कटौती) even on simple things like strengthening the food processing sector. Take one instance 100% FDI was allowed in the food retail business in 2016, but little money has come in as retailers want permission to stock a few non-food items like soaps and shampoos for customers. The minister in charge had promised this over a year ago, but nothing happened. Blaming the agitators is easy; policy responses are where the heavy lifting is needed.

Vocabulary words:

Gallop (noun) = A very fast pace running by someone (सरपट चाल) 

Fathom (verb) = Understand a problem after much thought (थाह लेना) 

Boulder (noun) = A large rock, typically one that has been worn smooth by erosion 

Conglomerate (noun) = A thing consisting of a number of different and distinct parts or items that are grouped together (समूह) 

Aquifer (noun) = A body of permeable rock which can contain or transmit groundwater (जलभृत) 

Strangle (verb) = Suppress (an impulse, action, or sound) (दमन करना) 

Denizen (noun) = Inhabitant, resident (निवासी) 

Vis-à-vis (prep) = In relation to; with regard to 

Array (verb) = Display or arrange in a particular way (सजाना) 

Embankment (noun) = A wall or bank of earth or stone built to prevent a river flooding an area (तटबंध) 

Reservoir (noun) = A large natural or artificial lake used as a source of water supply (जलाशय) 

Relegate (verb) = Assign an inferior rank or position to 

Largesse (noun) = Generosity, liberality (उदारता) 

Perennial (adj) = Everlasting, never-ending (सार्वकालिक) 

Jeopardise (verb) = Put someone/something in a situation in which there is a danger of loss, harm or failure (जोखिम में डालना) 

Malaise (noun) = Unhappiness, restlessness (अस्वस्थता) 

Culmination (noun) = The highest or climatic point of something (चरम बिंदु) 

Strapped (adj) = Short of money (तंगी) 

Imperceptible (adj) = Unnoticeable, invisible 

LOESS (definition) = Loess is a clastic, predominantly silt-sized sediment that is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust. 10% of the Earth's land area is covered by loess or similar deposits. 

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