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Whither green activism?

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Green activists and local villagers have taken serious exception to proposals from defence and research institutions to build sensitive projects on the 10,000 acres of Amrit Mahal Kaval land allotted to them in Challakere taluk of Chitradurga district. Among the sensitive projects are a Defence Research Development Organization proposal to start an aeronautical test range involving flying and testing of drones and a plan by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc) to set up an Uranium Enrichment Centre in their midst. "The Barc plan envisages conducting experiments with uranium, which will not only ruin the fertility of the land but put the lives of so many villagers at risk. Fear already pervades the grasslands," Leo Saldanha, co-ordinator, Environment Support Group, told a press conference here on Thursday.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

This so-called grass-land is what you see in the picture, taken from ESG's web-site, accessible here. And, very likely, the picture was taken during the monsoon period. During the dry season, meaning for most of the year (the average annual rainfall at best of times being around 450mm - check data on the area here, the picture generally is one of total desolation. Essentially, these are totally arid lands, as compared to say a Singur (in West Bengal), from where TELCO was driven away, and perhaps rightly so.

Now, in such a location, the government is proposing to set up a whole new town-ship, comprising, apart from DRDO and BARC (talked about by the so-called "green activists"), there are also going to be new campuses of  IISc, ISRO, apart from a 25MW solar park, a KSIDC ancillary industrial estate, and KHB's project for housing of all the people going to be moving in there. So, if there is any threat from any of DRDO's and BARC's activities for the local population, as being made out by the "green activists", it is going to be there for the staff of these organisations too. And, I expect you need to credit them with enough sense not to want to endanger the lives of their own people.

As such, I can't see why there should be any serious objection to this 'diversion' of land use, which will apart from everything else help transform the economy of this otherwise impoversished region, and prevent migration of the population to Bangalore and other cities.

The court has entertained the petition perhaps because the laid down procedures have not been followed, and to that extent there may be some merit to the PIL exercise. But, otherwise, I can't see what this hulla-balloo is all about. All the same, I am open to debate on the subject, and if convinced of the merits, I may even change my view.

Muralidhar Rao

Cdurga DC Office Swarmed Shepherds ____Press_Release_25072013.pdf452.75 KB


murali772's picture

comments extracted from a y-group

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Comments in Yahoo-group, where I had posted a link:

The "activists" seem to believe there would be radioactivity spilling over and affecting the land. They do not seem to have any idea of a containment zone or containment within the facility itself which would affect not only the BARC scientists but also the DRDO. It is alright to be cynical but it has to be backed by rationale and facts.  

Well said

Our environment groups/green activists object to any type of change. They should be balanced in their approach to solutions concerning both facts & realities and also the progress of the country.

Muralidhar Rao
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Mail exchanges on Hasiru-Usiru Yahoo-group

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1st set:
Its about diversion of grasslands instead of acquiring lands which was what they initially tried and realized grasslands can be labelled as wastelands - which is what most people, who have been distant from grazing and form the spirit of the literate world, can easily be diverted to too into focusing their argumentation - my 2 5ives

So, is one to make out that it is all a question of diversion vs acquisition? Anyway, it's all government land, and the beneficiaries are also government organisations.

There is no such thing as 'government' land, though it is a very common misconception. Whe India became independent, the land that the Crown claimed came to be vested (Not owned) in the State, and on behalf of the peoples of India. Common lands belong to none, but are to be responsibly enjoyed by all.  Which is what people did in Ckere.

It is the 'educated' (those who went to school and college) who are resigned to the view that commons belong to the Govertment.

So, is one to understand that you would be ok with "acquisition", with rightful compensation being paid to - - - - the cattle-herders (in proportion to the heads of cattle they own)???

Yes, indeed I am trying to get "educated", beyond what I learned in college (anyway, I did engineering and not law).

It abruptly ended there.

2nd set:
"So, if there is any threat from any of DRDO's and BARC's activities for the local population, as being made out by the "green activists", it is going to be there for the staff of these organisations too. And, I expect you need to credit them with enough sense not to want to endanger the lives of their own people."

There is a real problem with such an attitude. So if you build a nuclear reactor and are willing to live in the vicinity, the locals should not object , since you have supposedly taken care of safety issues. People do remarkably stupid things when they are convinced of their own infallibility and knowledge. To pretend that only a certain set of people have the 'expertise' is not only absurd, but a major slight on the intelligence of other people. All said and done, you can't force everybody to be unwilling participants.

Fair enough; but then, would it be ok by you if BARC is thrown out of the whole deal?

As regards, dangers pertaining to nuclear energy, there are studies now that point out to coal being a bigger killer (check this). So, do we abandon all of these activities?

This too abruptly ended here. Readers may draw their own conclusions.

Muralidhar Rao
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Tehelka report - don't impress me much

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“People in these areas have been living in sub-standard conditions. There are no proper schools and no toilets,” says HS Jagadeesh, IISC’s special officer for the Challakere project. “With the coming up of the projects, the quality of life in general will improve. There will be ample employment opportunities. Also, a scientific city will emerge in a backward district.”

At its core, the conflict is between the promise of a technologically advanced society pitted against the traditional livelihoods of pastoral communities. There is also the question of whether the wild species on the verge of extinction, such as the Great Indian Bustard, can survive the drone testing, the nuclear fuel enrichment facilities, and the intense urbanisation and industrialisation that will follow

Jagadeesh says, “Development will come at some cost.” However, the people of Challakere ask why they should be the ones to pay the price.

For the full report, click here.

The essence of the report is captured in the above extract. As far as I am concerned, I am not changing my stand.

Muralidhar Rao
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wonder where this is headed

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A press release by ESG titled "Chitradurga Deputy Commissioner Office Swarmed by Hundreds of Villagers and Thousands of Sheep - Protest against illegal diversion of Grasslands intensifies" in the matter, dt 25th July '13, is attached to my opening post. Some relevant extracts from the same, and my comments against them, are given below:

He also said that the region has been suffering from prolonged drought and the people are heavily dependent on livestock-rearing. In the absence of alternatives, the struggle to secure the grazing lands will only intensify in the future.

I remember seeing a movie - "Taballiyu Neenadre' Magane'" (by Girish Kasaravalli?), or something to that effect, long back, on the plight of people dependent largely on cattle rearing in drought-stricken regions, and their sufferings thereof. It was quite a moving depiction.

Nilkantha Mama, an elderly nomadic shepherd from Belgaum also addressed the gathering. He said he has grazed his sheep in these kavals and has seen that they are rich in medicinal plant wealth. There are also several fruits and tubers that they would eat while grazing their sheep and he attributes his good health and the longevity of his ancestors to these foods. He extended his support for the campaign and said these kavals are crucial for their survival. Women from Dodda Ullarthi and Molakalmuru sang songs on the Kavals.

What is being advocated essentially amounts to perpetuating a certain rural lifestyle, generation after generation. While a Nilkantha mama may subscribe to the same, I doubt if any of his sons or daughters who have noticed one of their ilk, Sri Siddaramaiah, rise to the level of the CM of the state, will want to subscribe the lifestyle for their children.

Muralidhar Rao
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along similar lines

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Meanwhile, word came of tribal children in Attapady in Palghat district dying of malnutrition in a state like Kerala which boasts the highest HDI in India, standing comparison with the best in the world. Likewise in the adjacent Silent Valley, home to other tribal communities.

The Kerala tribal belts have been kept outside the purview of the protective Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Silent Valley has been shielded from deve-lopment and kept as a nature reserve as a result of the exertions of many environmental champions.

But who answers for or protests tribal deaths there and elsewhere in Kerala — or India? Once the environmental battle is "won", tribals are left to suffer deprivation and death, quietly and unmourned in pristine surroundings. Sadly, the entire tribal question has been placed outside and beyond the poverty framework. Poverty of thinking on this issue is staggering. Real issues remain un-debated while trivia and electoral politics reign.

Things can change and will do so if the UPA presses ahead with reforms and breaks the environmental logjam on several large infrastructure projects.

For the full text of the column by Sri B G Verghese, in the ToI, click here

I had similarly wondered about the tribals in Andaman & Nicobar islands, who came into reckoning when the story broke in the media, sometime back, about a set of intrepid forest guards organising a "tribal-sighting" racket there for tourists. There was much noise generating then from expected quarters about how the tribal's pristine lifestyle would get affected by the disturbance caused by tourists, etc, etc. So, is it the position of these worthies, as also the government of the country, that these "human beings" should continue to live an animal existence?

Muralidhar Rao
silkboard's picture

does the region itself have a say, what does Chitradurga want?

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Haven't read any good reports on what is it that the people of the region want. If Chitradurga doesn't want "development" at the cost of some "green" land, why can state not put the project out as a package to all the districits, one who wants could 'bid' for it. And if no-one is interested, then curtains. ashtay.

I don't know if things work this way. But they should.

srinidhi's picture

gomala land

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all around the state these gomala lands has been usurped by politicians and thier ilks..major issues is with land around bangalore itself.. 

wonder why the greens didnt land up here for protest..

Chitradurga has been backward since ages and the only significance, after Davangere was carved out as a district from it, is it that of historical in nature..theres absolutely nothing to that place..and any kind of progress should have been ideally wellcome

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Jarawa tribals have apparently had enough

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In an interesting development, a group of 10 people from the Jarawa community have come out of the forest at Kadamtala Island in Middle Andaman and protested at the  Kadamtala panchayat office demanding that they wanted meet the Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands to lodge a complaint with him for shortage of food items. - - - - Afee, a Jarawa youth, who led the protest, told the gathering in Hindi: “We want to meet the Lt. Governor so that we can tell our problems to him. We don’t have food, we are in distress. Normally we eat wild boars, potatoes and fish, but nowadays there is severe shortage of food inside jungle.” “We often sleep with empty belly, but do not get any food item from the babus. We know the government (sarkar) is sending a lot of food items and cloths for us, but we don’t get anything. We want our children to study in school, like the Onge children. We also want to become (bada admi) rich,” Afee said.

For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here

In my post of 31st July (above), I had mentioned about these tribals. Very clearly, the younger generation amongst the lot do not want to continue with their animal existence any longer. And, I expect the aspirations of the sons and grandsons of Nilakanth mama (referred to in my post of 27th July) will be far higher even. So, can we continue to deny them opportunities for advancement from their tedious existence, any longer?

Muralidhar Rao
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less developed Karnataka

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Karnataka's categorization as a less developed state by the Raghuram Rajan panel was met with surprise, shock and disappointment. But among those who have closely followed the state's larger development trajectory, in particular the progress outside of Bangalore, there were plenty of I told you so's'.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

While this is the scene on the one hand, on the other, there are the whole lot of Bangaloreans who are trying to tell their rural brethren in places like drought-prone Challakere that they should feel happy the way they are, and that they should not aspire for anything beyond cattle rearing. Are they (at least the youth amongst them) going to be listening when even the Jarawa youth (from Andaman & Nicobar) are beginning to say 'well, thank you'.

Muralidhar Rao
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Failure of the political class

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M Chockalingam (Judicial Member) and R. Nagendran (Expert Member) constituting the National Green Tribunal (Southern Zone Bench), issued a direction on February 14, 2014 halting all construction in the ecologically sensitive Amrut Mahal Kaval grassland ecosystems in Challakere Taluk, Chitradurga district, Karnataka.

- - - Challenging this diversion before the National Green Tribunal (Southern Zone), the Petitioners have said that the entire exercise was illegal as no assessment of the ecological and social impacts was ever conducted, no proper assessment was carried out to assess the appropriateness of siting such dangerous and highly sensitive facilities all in one location, nor was there any compliance with environmental protection, pollution control and land use planning regulations. Besides the entire exercise was undertaken with extraordinary secrecy, including by keeping elected bodies and representatives out of the decision making process.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

If these Kavals are classified as "ecologically sensitive", then I expect there are very few places in the world that won't merit the same classification too. Likewise, if the proposed facilities are classified as "dangerous and highly sensitive", I wonder if there are any other facilities in the world that won't merit the same classification too. Besides, while talk about developing the area as a "science city" had been in the air from long, perhaps locating all of these facilities in one location may not have been the right thing to do. Further, apparently, the many procedures needed to be followed were not carried out diligently too.

But, on the other hand, the projects would have transformed the place (nay, the enire district) into a developed area, which would have meant employment generation in large numbers for the local people, even if at lower levels, the skill and education levels amongst them being low, currently. Either way, this would have fetched better earnings than they make currently out of sheep/ cattle rearing, which besides engages only a handful amongst the lot. Also, as the science city eveloved, bringning in in its wake, attendant infrastructure like schools, polytechnics, colleges, etc, the scope for better levels of employment for future generations would have followed automatically too. As such, the blocking of the development now is going to be condemning the present, as well as future, generations to sheep/ cattle rearing at best, migration to cities (as another option), or plain starvation at worst.

It is difficult to believe that the local people would not have appreciated all of these, if the same had been put across to them in the proper way. That is where the political class, including the CM (who has after all risen from amongst the lot) has failed them, particularly those of the future generation.

Muralidhar Rao
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Kavals & cows

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I dont know if I can relate this to the kavals but here is an incident. I visited a milkman rearing cows in my area to see if I can switch to organic milk straight from the cow. I realized after I got there that this is the same cow that was feeding on plastic and other garbage from the street side trash in my neighbourhood everyday. I saw a pile of hay and asked him why do you let the cows eat garbage and not feed it hay. He told me cows have a huge appetite and needs to be eating for a large part of the day for it to be healthy. The amount of time it grazes depends on the quality & quantity of grass it gets to eat. He mentioned the amount of hay he can afford to buy is just not enough and they need fresh grass also which he really cant get so he lets them lose for the roadside grass.

Just got me thinking how much grassland is really there left for our milk producing cows, goat etc. Is there any data at all? Not that schools colleges & research institutions can be built in air, but are we destroying something substantial? How was this land identified by politicians? What are the alternate arrangements made with the grazers do they have a stake in the development or are they just being shunted out?

PS: I am back to nandini milk which god knows how much chemical treatment it undergoes and how much calcium & protein is really left in it? they only report fat content and I didnt want to eat plastic. 

srinidhi's picture

milk is overrated?

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Simple Fact: Mammals other than humans do not drink milk after they grow up..however even for humans, our body is not really equipped to handle milk!

So maybe its better to cut down on it and look elsewhere for nutrition I suppose..

idontspam's picture

Throwing baby out with bath water

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So maybe its better to cut down on it and look elsewhere for nutrition I suppose.

Tell that to the people who rely on whey to provide protiens, curd & buttermilk, to the people who consume butter & ghee which have more favourable omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio than oils. This is like saying MH370 may have had some bad guys so better it got lost. 

murali772's picture

different discussion

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Vegans manage life without milk - whatever, all that's a different discussion - a separate blog may be started for the purpose.

The question here is cattle rearing and such rural pursuits for livelihood versus modern industrial development (of the right kind, let's assume). Now, if it is cattle rearing associated with dairy industry (of the Amul kind), perhaps there's meaning to that. But, that doesn't seem to be the case here. It's more like in this village in Tuticorin (Tamilnadu) dstrict (check here), where repeat monsoon failures is leading to near total depravation of the local population, and their selling out bof the cattle to slaughter houses.

So, shouldn't some bit of industrial activity be welcomed?

Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

So, shouldn't some bit of

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So, shouldn't some bit of industrial activity be welcomed?

Sure, but are the people being run roughshod? Have we understood the concerns and done homework or as usual they just put a pin on a map and are chasing people from there. From the links above I quote

"the Petitioners have said that the entire exercise was illegal as no assessment of the ecological and social impacts was ever conducted, no proper assessment was carried out to assess the appropriateness of siting such dangerous and highly sensitive facilities all in one location, nor was there any compliance with environmental protection, pollution control and land use planning regulations. Besides the entire exercise was undertaken with extraordinary secrecy, including by keeping elected bodies and representatives out of the decision making process."

Why do we encourage people who by default committ fraud & violation to further do such undocumented stuff? What is the harm in asking them to prove it is indeed worth while to have those institutions? Cant they not quantify the benefits of the instutions and still take care of the people? why cant the govt learn to use ppt & internet to share information with people? If there is any deliberate blockade by the people then they can always tell people why eminent domain is being used.

murali772's picture

result of sham public consultation processes

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@ ids - I can't agree with you more on what you have stated. That's what I meant when I said that it's the failure of the political class.

Now, except for the few old-world romanticists and enviro-fundamentalists, people in general are appreciative of the fact that growth is a must if the large sections of our population, who are below the poverty line (whichever way you want to define it), have to be helped to raise themselves to higher levels. The politicians too are very much aware of this, and that's why they lobby hard to locate projects in their respective constituencies so that their voters are benefitted. The public besides is also appreciative of the fact that growth will necessarily entail a bit of damage to the environment, and, as long as it is contained to the minimum, they are more or less ok with it. This thinking is beginning to be accepted across large sections of the population as reflected in this New Indian Express editorial.

As such, if things are put across to the people in the proper way, with the attendant R & R (resettlement & rehabilitation) issues, apart from the environmental aspects, taken care of, there should generally be ready co-operation from the people too, perhaps with some bit of modifications of the project parameters, where necessary. This is what "public consultation" (to be followed as per law), meant to achieve, if gone about in proper spirit.

But, invariably, governments are seen to be going about executing these development projects in stealth, and that's when things go haywire. The reason why governments resort to stealth is also not far to seek. From land acquisition, to building contracts, to equipment supply & erection contracts, et al, the minister-in-charge will want to bring in his cronies, and milk the project to the maximum possible extent. Resulting out of this, you have the kind of turmoil that you see in Challakere.

And, in the case of NTPC's 3 X 800 MW Kudgi thermal power project, it seems to be a case of taking things for granted (check the NIE report here). Further, in the case of this massive SEZ, right on the Bellandur lake flood plains in the heart of the city, it is plainly "crony capitalism" at play.

Muralidhar Rao
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choice between thermonuclear city and total deprivation

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It is in Bengaluru's backyard, so to say, but no one knew it. It is reportedly India's desperate quest to counter the nuclear threat posed by China and Pakistan that is taking its toll on 3.5 lakh farmers around Challakere town in Chitradurga district of Karnataka, just 200 km north of Bengaluru.

A massive secret project - a 'thermonuclear city' - is reportedly coming up to beef up India's thermonuclear - hydrogen bombs - arsenal and generate nuclear fuel for Indian Navy's growing fleet of nuclear submarines near Challakere.

- - - - Between 2003 and 2007, the region witnessed 101 suicides committed by farmers whose crops had failed due to severe drought.

For the full text of the report in the Bangalore Mirror, click here.

Farmer suicides on account of crop failures caused by severe drought has been a regular feature in this arid region. Perhaps, the 'development' as a thermonuclear city will change the people's fortunes in the years to come.

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