PASSAGE â€“ III
In a country like India, both poverty and economic growth pose serious environmental challenges. In their desperate attempt to survive today, people are forced to forsake their tomorrow and their environment. A classic example of the phenomenon can be found in impoverished tribal areas where millions of households are forced to cut forests everyday and sell wood to get at best, half-a meal a day. And all this does not come cheaply in terms of personal costs, as some people often tend to argue. Tribal women wake up before dawn, walk miles to the dwindling forests to cut and bundle
wood and then carry the load tens of kilometers to a nearby town. And after all that, what they get is pittance.
At the same time uncontrolled economic growth, urbanization and industrialization can rip apart forests, mine the overuse ground water systems, dam rivers, pollute water and air, stuff the land with unknown poisons. In this way, economic growth not just poisons and destroys cities, but also erodes the rural resource base, setting in motion a vicious cycle. Rural ecosystems unable to support their growing populations push more and more people into the cities.
There is therefore, a golden mean, a balance, as in all things ecological between poverty and wealth, between need and greed. This is an area for values, education, culture, social aspirations, human satisfaction-especially amongst those who have them in sufficient measure- in things other than what economists call goods.
The new economic policies of the Government built around certain concepts of economic liberalization and structural adjustment have raised numerous questions in the minds of the environmentally â€“ concerned. One set of critics believes that these policies will enhance impoverishment. Apart from being bad in themselves, the policies will have a negative environmental impact.
There is another set which believes that these policies will enhance entrepreneurship and processes of wealth generation and thus reduce poverty. But this set too does not know how these processes will be controlled to ensure a good and clean environment.
If the government could not give the country a good economic governance and hence its role must be curtailed, then what is the guarantee that the same corrupt, inefficient, partisan and soft government, will give us good environmental governance, where the trade-offs, especially in a poor country like India, are even more difficult to assess and understand?
There is of course, another set of concerns which is as follows: even if the new policies generate wealth, will this wealth not be built on borrowed consumption patterns from industrialized countries? Will these consumption patterns not devastate our culture and environment, that is whatever that remains of them?
As far as the authorâ€™s stand regarding the credibility of the government is concerned, it can best be described as :