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Green quota: Sril Lanka style

This would probably trigger an avalanche of brickbats, but I am going to take my chances anyway. I think its time that the Education sector in India opens up to a fresh set of quotas.

A monsoon warning

As I write this my city Delhi is drowning. It started raining early this morning and within a few hours the city has come to a standstill. The television is showing scenes of traffic snarled up for hours, roads waterlogged and people and vehicles sunk deep in water and muck. The meteorological department records that some 60 mm of rain has fallen in just about 6 hours; 90 mm in 24 hours; and with this the city has made up for its deficit of rainfall this season. In other words, in just about 24 hours Delhi and its surrounding areas got half as much rain as they would in the entire month of September. Delhi, like all growing cities of India, is mindless about drainage. Storm water drains are either clogged or do not exist. Our lakes and ponds have been eaten away by real estate. Land is what the city values, not water. So when it rains more than it should the city drowns.

Lessons from Kakarapalli

We were standing at the edge of what looked like a swamp—grass and pools and streams. On one side was heavily barricaded land with high walls, barbed wires and armed security. A board read: East Coast Energy, Kakarapalli. This was where a bloody battle had taken place a few months ago. People protesting the takeover of their wetland were shot at and three lost their lives. Now the site of the 2,640 MW thermal power plant is under siege—locked and in court.

The never-say-die Nepalese

I was in Kathmandu last week. An interesting time to be in Nepal as a political observer, watching the Jhalanath Khanal-led government run out of time to cobble together a coalition. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there as a political observer. My task was to meet with the top brass in the government’s Education department. And to try to figure out if an environment programme that has managed to excite and engage school students in India, would work its magic in Nepal, too.

Parking that can’t be found

Khan Market in boulevard Delhi is said to be the most expensive real estate in India, maybe even in the world. But in this richest shopping destination, buyers do not want to pay for parking their vehicles.

Mining bill gets it right

Sustainable mining is an oxymoron. Environmentalists will tell you this. Mining—coal to limestone—takes away forests, devastates mountains and leaves the land pockmarked. It also destroys livelihoods of people and displaces them. Worse, modern, mechanised mining takes away livelihood based on land but does not replace it with local employment—all estimates show that direct employment in the mining sector has fallen sharply. It provides wealth, but not for local development.

Land is more than just that

My article last fortnight about people’s fight against POSCO has brought me interesting responses. They call for clarifications and further discussion. The question is about the value of current livelihoods of the people of coastal Odisha. Is earning from betel nut farming being exaggerated to reinforce the romantic and misinformed view that people are fighting projects because they are better off today? The equally valid question, then, is: why are the people so apparently poor if they are earning Rs 10-17 lakh per hectare (ha) each year as I had said?

POSCO: take land but give life

The sight on television was heartbreaking: children lying in rows in the searing sun to be human shields against the takeover of their land for Korean giant POSCO’s mega bucks project. Facing them were armed police sent by the state government to assist in the operation.

When business rules our kitchens

Once again there is a food safety scare. A deadly strain of E coli bacterium has hit Germany, where it has taken the lives of 25 people and affected another 2,300 till date. German food inspectors on the trail of the source of contamination ha­ve as yet made two errors—blaming Spanish cucumbers and then organic bean sprouts—but no breakthrough.

From forestry to productive forestry

My position on the need to re-position forests in development (see ‘Rethink growth with forest capital’, Down To Earth, May 16-31) has brought me a huge response. On the one hand are those who argue that functions of forests already include conservation vital to life; they need to be valued and protected. The unsaid (and often stressed) corollary is that any discussion on the need to improve productivity of forests through the involvement of people needs to be shunned. The stretched and simplistic positioning of this view is that forests and people cannot go together.

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