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Increase in tree cover? Media should shed tokenism: World Environment Day

By Shankar Sharma* 

The Vijaya Karnataka's (VK's) coverage today on World Environment Day is a good effort, and hence deserves our appreciation. Few examples of good practice in protecting our environment, as mentioned in the coverage, are worthy of emulation by the larger society. However, such instances of good practice are very rare and too tiny in number in a country of 140 crore people, and are mostly due to the untiring efforts of few individuals and some communities. They are so few among an innumerable number of serious blunders in our society, that they can be equated to a drop in the ocean of irresponsible and/ or ignorant omissions and commissions.
Hence, the need of the day seeks our society, especially the print & electronic media, to go beyond such tokenism, and embark on a massive public awareness campaign on the serious omissions and commissions on our part in protecting the critical elements of nature, so that course corrections can be applied urgently. For anyone with even a moderate view of what is happening on environmental protection, it should be clear that much of the root-cause of the degradation of our natural resources, and hence of the Climate Change, are due to the wrong policies of the state and central governments. Unless civil society makes an effort to repeatedly and effectively highlight such policy mistakes in all possible public fora, the consequences of Climate Change will increasingly become grim with the passage of each day/month.
The news article in VK about the so-called increase in the tree/forest cover in the country can only be treated like a pinch of salt. Such increase in forest cover, as claimed in Karnataka for example, should be challenged, and the details such as where, when and how such forest expansion has taken place should be sought. Media reports have carried a number of statements/ opinion pieces by domain experts challenging the govt. claim on such increase in forest cover. What is also undoubtedly clear is the fact that there have been scores of "developmental projects" for which hundreds of hectares of thick natural forests are being diverted, even from protected areas, every year since the last decade or two. Hence, it would be fatal to equate a few thousand tree saplings planted in a year on roadsides, or on dry lands, or in plantations to the enormous loss of vegetational cover in natural forest regions, and to feel elated about it.
The unacceptable levels of pollution/ contamination of air, water and soil, as being reported regularly from different parts of the county, must be a grim reminder of the poor environmental upkeep in our country. The unprecedented heat waves in May this year, ever increasing peak temps. across the country each year, the recurring floods in many regions of the country, landslides in the Western Ghats and Himalayas, droughts in other parts etc. cannot be reflecting the good practices at the national level.
If few of the experienced environmentalists and domain experts are asked about their views, it is most likely that all of them will be concerned with the status of our general environment, and are likely to say that there is not a single economic sector in our country, which has policies and practices for a sustainable future. VK should also consider publishing a series of opinion pieces by such people.
Hence, may I suggest that while rejoicing on a tiny number of good practices, we should also be seriously concerned and should be doing whatever feasible to persuade the state and central govt. to act rationally and with all the seriousness our situation demands?
Few of the recent items and reports, as in the links below, should highlight the associated issues:
*Power & Climate Policy Analyst



Eight years of empowering tribal communities through water initiatives in Chhattisgarh

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1982-83 Bombay textile strike played major role in shaping working class movement

By Harsh Thakor  On January 18th, 1982 the working class movement commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Textile Workers Strike that lasted for 18 months, till July 1983. It was landmark event that played a major role in shaping the working class movement. With more than 2.5 lakh workers from 65 textile mills joining in this strike for almost two years, this strike became one of the most significant strikes in terms of scale and duration All democrats should applaud the mill workers’ united battle, and their unflinching resilience an death defying courage continues to serve as a model for contemporary working-class movements. Many middle class persons harboured opinions that the Textile workers were pampered or were a labour aristocracy, ignorant of how they were denied wages to provide for basic necessities. The Great Bombay Textile Strike is notably one of the most defining movements in the working class struggles in Post-independent India. Bombay’s textile industry flourished in

Ceasefire a tactical victory for Palestinian resistance, protests intensify across globe

By Harsh Thakor*  The Zionist leadership and Netanyahu’s government were compelled to concede the defeat of their first attempt after almost 50 days of daily fighting in the Gaza Strip.  Netanyahu was forced to concede that he was unsuccessful in suppressing the Palestinian Resistance; and that the release of the prisoners was only plausible because they accepted Hamas’ terms.

Odisha leadership crisis deepens: CM engages retired babus to oversee depts' work

By Sudhansu R Das  Over decades, Odisha has lost much of its crop diversity, fertile agriculture land, water bodies, employment potential, handicraft and handloom skills etc. The state has failed to strike a balance between the urban and rural sector growth; this leads to the migration of villagers to the urban areas leading to collapse of the urban infrastructures and an acute labor shortage in rural areas.  A large number of educated, skilled and unskilled Odia people have migrated to other states for higher education, quality jobs and for earning livelihood which plummet the efficiency level of government departments. Utmost transparency in the recruitment and promotion in the state government departments will improve governance mechanisms in the state.  "No near and dear one approach" in governance mechanisms can only achieve inclusive growth for the state on payment basis. This is a moral hazard. When so many educated young people seek employment outside the

Massive tropical deforestation: Big finance's $307 billion go to forest-risk commodities

A note on report by Forests & Finance coalition -- Rainforest Action Network, TuK Indonesia, Profundo, Amazon Watch, Repórter Brasil, BankTrack, Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Friends of the Earth US: *** A new report released on ‘Finance Day’ at COP28 by the Forests & Finance Coalition , provides a comprehensive look into the role big finance plays in driving deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change and human rights abuses in tropical forest regions. The report reveals that since the Paris Agreement, banks have pumped over $307 billion into high risk forestry and agriculture companies linked to tropical deforestation, proving that the policies of major global banks and investors are failing to prevent continued widespread forest and biodiversity loss.

20% of Indian businesses have no emission plan in place despite climate emergency: Report

By Jag Jivan   New research underlines urgent need for strategies and transition plans to combat climate change, remain successful and meet stakeholder expectations.