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Discourses on Sustainable Development Course Coordinator – Prof. Urvi Desai

Ecology & Equity The use and abuse of Nature in Contemporary India Madhav Gadgil & Ramachandra Guha (A CAULDRON OF CONFLICTS: P.No. 61-112) Submitted: 3rd April 2013

Summary ‘’‘A CAULDRON OF CONFLICTS’’ is a chapter from the book ‘Ecology & Equity-The use and abuse of Nature in Contemporary India’ by Madhav Gadgil & Ramachandra Guha. This chapter provides details and reasons of various cases of conflicts seen in the states of India on inequitable allocation and exploitation of natural resources like water, land, forests. The book was published in 1995, so it doesn’t have the details of the recent cases. Also the authors are very known environmentalists and 1990’s was a period when various environmental movements in India were at their peak and environmentalists trying hard to achieve major reforms in governance, some pages in this chapter may reflect the pessimistic mind-set of the authors towards globalisation or development. But as we go further into the details of cases mentioned in the chapter, we will realise the seriousness of the environmental issues and also the need of equitable distribution of resources. The chapter starts with the case of villagers protesting against Sardar Sarovar project because there land comes in the submergence area of dam and they are not being rehabilitated. The author argues that because most of the people were peasants and farmers, they were not given proper attention by the then govt. ministers. The author represents the ‘Decision makers’ and ‘Rich people who are responsible for over-exploitation of Environment’ as ‘Omnivores’ who gets benefits by destroying the livelihood of local ‘Ecosystem people’. ’Be it the case of Palamau Distrcit of Bihar, where people shouted slogans ‘Hum jaan de denge lekin zameen nahi denge’ when army proposed to build a massive test firing range covering 190 villages also close to Betla National park, or the case of dam outstees from various river valley projects, and on whose experience the anthropologist Thayer Scudder says ‘Next to killing a man, the worst you can do is to displace them’. The author has excellently explained the reasons of conflict over various issues with one case in rural Gujrat and Kumta Taluk in Karnataka, where due to over extraction of ground water by cash crop growing rich farmers by use of mechanised means of extraction, has led to dispute like conditions with their counterparts, the poor farmers who grows rabi crops which doesn’t fetch them good money and also who can’t afford diesel or electric operated pumps. The author’s reference of Water as ‘Source and Sink’, i.e., use of river for irrigation and drinkable water, and at the same time, as a channel to drain industrial pollutants, is marvellous. Author has given a ray of hope by mentioning some Ecological rehabilitation efforts, like the one in village Ralegan Sidhhi, in Ahmedanagar distt. of Maharashtra where Anna Hazare, a noted socialist and environmentalist, through the community participation, solved the water scarcity issue to their village. This chapter looks at various ideologies of Environmentalism and at the end, also compares them at various parameters, which can be rarely seen in any environment related books. Overall, the examples mentioned and the chapter itself is a good read, if studied with open minded, ‘respect towards people and environment’ approach, or as an informative news article.

Bhanu Mahajan Sustainable Development and Climate Change SECC0912, CEPT University


Ecology and equity