Understanding the economic context and ecological challenges faced by India’s tribal communities – Down To Earth

In the past 10 years [prior to 2013], India’s environmental movement has had a rebirth. It was first born in the 1970s, when the industrialised world was seeing the impact of growth on its environment. […]

It was also in the 1970s that the second environmental challenge—issues of access and sustainable management of natural resources—emerged. In the remote Himalayas, the women had prevented the timber merchants from cutting their forest. But their fight was not to protect the forest. Their fight was to assert their right to the resources of the forest. It was an environmental movement because the women of this village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand knew they had to protect the forest to protect their livelihood. It was a call to redefine development and growth.

But it is only now that these two sides of the environmental challenge have truly come home to India. Importantly, this is a time when environmental issues have taken centre stage in the country. Yet matters are going from bad to worse. The pollution in our rivers is worse today than it was three decades ago. The garbage in cities is growing by the day, even as governments scramble to find ways of reducing plastic and hiding the rest in landfills in far-off places. Air pollution in cities is worse, and toxins are damaging our lungs.

This, in spite of efforts to contain the problem. […]

The fact is in India a large number of people—and it is indeed a large number—depend on the land, the forests and the water around them for their livelihood. They know that once these resources are gone or degraded their survival will be at stake.

We must recognise that across the world, the environmental movement is based on the idea that people do not want anything bad in their vicinity: not in my backyard or NIMBY. […]

When the urban and middle-class India—as across the world—faces an environmental threat it does not stop to ask in whose backyard it should be allowed. The fact is garbage is produced because of our consumption. The richer we get, the more waste we generate and the more we pollute. […]

In middle-class environmentalism there is no appetite for changing lifestyles that will minimise waste and pollution. […]

We can do things differently to reinvent growth without pollution. But only if we have the courage to think differently. I hope we will.

Source: “India’s twin environmental challenges” by Sunita Narain (Down To Earth, 15 December 2013)
Address : https://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/india-s-twin-environmental-challenges
Date Visited: 22 February 2021

Learn from M S Swaminathan – a world renowned scientist – how biological diversity contributes to public health, people’s livelihood and environmental security in addition to food security: his call on fellow citizens to use and share resources in a more sustainable and equitable manner; outlining the long journey from the 1992 Earth Summit to a commitment to foster inherited knowledge through India’s Biodiversity Act and Genome Saviour Award; an award intended to reward those who are “primary conservers” – guardians of biological diversity!

More about the work of his foundation which “aims to accelerate use of modern science and technology for agricultural and rural development to improve lives and livelihoods of communities.” – www.mssrf.org | Regarding the issues of food security raised above, and the nutritional value of indigenous grains, seeds and millets, read an in-depth report that concludes that “the tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious” >>

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“Movements of farmers and farm labourers […] are headed for serious trouble if they do not factor in the problems of climate change (which have already devastated agriculture in India); if they do not locate themselves in, and link their battles to, an agroecological approach.” – P. Sainath in “We Didn’t Bleed Him Enough”: When Normal is the Problem (counterpunch.org, 12 August 2020, first published in Frontline magazine) | More about climate change | United Nations on climate change >>

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Related posts

“We can do things differently to reinvent growth without pollution. But only if we have the courage to think differently.” – Sunita Narain in Down To Earth >>

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Atree.org | Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & the Environment (posts)

Biodiversity | Hyderabad biodiversity pledge | Nilgiri Biosphere

Climate change | Audio | The Climate Question (BBC Podcast)

Ecology and environment

eJournals & eBooks | Background guide for education

eLearning: Center for World Indigenous Studies

Ethnobotany & ethnomedicine

Forest Rights Act (FRA) | Hunter-gatherers | Legal rights over forest land

Gandhian social movement

Health and nutrition | Recommendations by the Expert Committee

Indigenous knowledge systems

M S Swaminathan

Native science

Nature and wildlife

Nehru

Revival of traditions

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Shola Trust

Success story

Tagore and rural culture

“The tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious”

Tribal culture worldwide

United Nations on climate change

Vandana Shiva

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What is the Forest Rights Act about?
Who is a forest dweller under this law, and who gets rights?

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