In the material world, any economic decision taken, the environment ends up being the victim. Ecology is seldom a concern when it comes to ‘development’. In one of my previous blogs, you may have read about the course I am doing called ‘environmental and resource economics’. Some of the facts here are straight from the course content.
I don’t know how many of you know about endosulfan poisoning in Kerala, here’s what happened there. Have a look at the link http://indiatogether.org/2004/jan/env-endosulf.htm . Kerala govt. had ordered aerial spraying of endosulfan pesticides in mountainous terrains of Kasargod district. Unknown even to scientists that drastic consequences were inevitable in 20 years, the program was welcomed by every segment of the population. Villagers looked at this as signs of progress. Coupled by biological food chain and the natural soil movement, endosulfan tracked its way into human metabolism. People were taken aback by the extent of damage it caused. Economists were reluctant to stop the aerial spraying (it was started in 70s; effect was seen in the late 90s). The damages included physical and mental deformities, diseases of central nervous system and many more. After a long fight, Kerala govt. did impose a ban on spraying but all this was in vain. A private agency claimed endosulfan wasn’t the cause and successfully lifted this ban. The people continue to suffer even today. Please look at these links too.
Many of you would know about the Minamata disease caused by slow mercury poisoning. This link will provide the necessary information. http://rarediseases.about.com/od/rarediseases1/a/102304.htm Mercury was disposed off into the sea by Japanese industries. As in case of endosulfan, it penetrated into the human system and caused havoc. The symptoms here included (I quote from the web site) “Individuals began to have numbness in their limbs and lips. Some had difficulty hearing or seeing. Others developed shaking (tremors) in their arms and legs, difficulty walking, even brain damage. Others seemed to be going crazy, shouting uncontrollably.” Thankfully, Japanese are more sensible (or responsible) and took the necessary action.
Any decision that favours natural environment is taken only after much hue and cry. All of us are aware of the decision by UP govt. to close down industries around Taj Mahal. This came after persistent warning from experts and only after the damages on Taj Mahal were visible clearly. Why is it that Delhi buses were forced to CNG only after the city became infamous for being fourth most polluted city in the world? Even today more than 20 year old vehicles are running on roads. Victims of Bhopal Gas tragedy are yet to receive their compensation. Country like USA, which consumes maximum share of resources, and still hungry for more, refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol!
Frankly, I am quite impressed by India’s ambitious project on interlinking of rivers. But I have a strong concern for the ecological impact it can have. It is a simple rule that when you are unsure about the consequences of an action, do not execute it. I wonder how many have actually thought of its influence on natural river flow. Can it end up drying some of the bigger rivers in the country? In every lecture on this project, engineering challenges are dealt with. But environment is forgotten practically every time.
Here’s an encouraging fact, eastern Himalayas and Western Ghats are included in 18 biodiversity hot spots of the world. Sadly, I guess, these are two of the very very few natural pockets of forest reserves we have.
With this blog I wanted to bring the plight of Kerala’s people to attention. I hope concerned authorities take the appropriate action