Hear Us, Please – A Fervent Voice of Reason

To the Kerala Government which assumed power on 20.05.2021

In 2018 when Kerala was struck by the worst ever flood of the century, beyond and above the tragedy and catastrophic consequences were raised many questions and suggestions about how this small State should be rebuilt.

In 2021 a month ago before we queued up before the polling booths the same voices came together again with questions and demands about the need for  a sustainable development mode based on principles of ecological justice, equity and environmental concerns. This Green Election People’s Manifesto highlighted the fact that all 3 contesting political parties have not mentioned the factors that would threaten the existence of human life as they present development programs that cater to the need of corporate –private global interests. K-Railway, Huge Ports, Airports, Coastal Highway were being announced loud by all. This points out to the undeniable agenda of pushing decentralised power in the shelf and putting centralised material hoarding projects on board . There was a time when the development projects announced would be in tune with the stances and ideology of each political party . But now these differences have been wiped out. Instead all political parties, left,right and third front fall prey and to corporate forces and offer obsequious service to them.

It is ironical and undemocratic that this is happening in a country which has placed Gandhiji as Father of Nation who stressed on the development of villages as the basis of sustenance and progress. It is criminal that however weak it may be the concept of decentralisation which is the foundation of democracy has been forgotten completely. It is a matter of concern who has given these political parties the power and authority to do so? Till a while ago each development project would be put up for discussion before the public , party circles and venues, assembly and planning board before it got implemented. But now it is obvious that after the assembly election, the winning front that would assume power will focus on the most undemocratic power and resource centralisation to bring in development programs!

Is this way the future of 3 crore people and the ecosystems should be decided? How did many development projects opposed and rejected by people’s movements find their place back in the propaganda material of each contesting party?  How can the same language and attitude get reflected in the agenda of different parties like it was prepared by the same agency?

The media along with the process of propaganda has succeeded in creating an impression that development sans politics and it is inevitable for the progress of the State. This is why the Assembly elections have become the arena for consolidation of attitudes and agendas behind all development projects by different political parties .

In the real sense, the politics of development should be discussed on the basis of priorities. This should be decided by the needs of different communities that comprise a society. Here drinking water, food, health, conducive conditions for living and livelihood assume paramount importance. The basic needs of the people are reduced to welfare pensions and kits which are short cuts that deny the essential dignity and self reliance of human communities. In a mainstream political space which has been de- politicalised such crucial political dialogues on development and human life will not figure.

It is in this context that the Kasargod District Environment Samithi is presenting this alternate development Manifesto based on the rights of human communities and ecosystems that has to be conserved and sustained.

The Manifesto titled Self reliant Kasargod focuses on the fact that self reliance and independence of regional communities is the strongest form of resistance against globalisation and privatisation. Since Kasargod is a district with maximum available land in Kerala,the basis of development should be self reliance. To achieve this goal the areas and issues that have been highlighted in the Manifesto are comprehensive and wholistic.  These include the Protection and Conservation of Wetlands and paddy fields, Water literacy based on water self reliance and availability of drinking water, Agriculture, Fisheries, Land use policy , rehabilitation of Endosulfan victims, Tourism and so on. Each of these sections have been discussed in detail with highlights on specific issues, the pros and cons of development programs being planned in each area, the alternate people centric programs that need to be discussed. The adverse impact of K-rail and coastal high way that will spell the death knell of the remaining coast and mountains has been stressed upon too in this.

Into the space created by this dialogue can be placed the short yet crisp writing of noted writer in Malayalam T.Padmanabhan who on 3rd May a day after the election results were announced wrote a note ‘ 5 issues that the Chief Minister should know” .Of these the 3 most significant are all connected to the need for humans to connect to the world around and decisions taken that factor in the protection of the environment.

1.The way in which waste is being managed and removed in Kerala defies the behaviour of a modern, developed society. No amount of protest will yield results or response according to the people  As a person who has travelled extensively, I am of opinion that such pitiable sights are not seen anywhere else in the world. This state of affairs has to be removed and a scientific method to treat waste has to be found urgently.

2.In this state forests are for destruction. Wetlands are being reclaimed to build resorts. It is not ignorance of laws but no sincere effort is being made by the concerned authorities to stop this .

The people living next to wild areas face conflict with wild animals. It is because the ecosystems and habitats of wild animals are being converted to farm lands which forces them to come to our human habitations. Wild animals have as much right as us to live in this planet.

Along with this on 17th May 2021, one of the most credible of groups that raises issues of concern to human life –the Paristhithi Ikya Vedi penned an appeal to the Kerala Government requesting that the basic development of the State should be based on the U.N Sustainable Development Goals.  The need to include sustainability while envisaging projects that cater to basic needs has been highlighted in this appeal. The review of the 64,941 crore K rail project should be done taking into consideration the social, economic, technical, scientific and environmental impacts. The existence of alternate projects and schemes that can bring in the same effective results of this project is already there. This appeal which highlights the fragmentation of the State destroying valuable agricultural land and wetlands as it stretches 529.45 kms  will spell the death knell for the remaining part of Western Ghats. The degree of displacement, loss of livelihoods, productive spaces and habitation will add to the already Covid affected communities and those ravaged by flood and cyclone. The appeal signed by two of the senior environmentalists in the State Dr.M.K.Prasad and Dr.V.S.Vijayan is one that should be read and discussed with due seriousness.

Last but not the least, it should not be  forgotten that every discerning citizen in the State who believe in democracy and secularism, who have celebrated the second come back of the Left are concerned and anxious about the development policies and approaches of the decision makers. The trend has been to discredit the need for dialogue and transparency when it comes to crucial decisions that affect the life, livelihood of communities. The right of non-human beings to exist also has paramount importance in a society that claims to be progressive and inclusive.

Compiled and translated  by Anitha.S in  conversation with Sudheer Kumar ( Kasargod District Environment Samithi), reading the appeal by Paristhithi Aikya Vedi and the note by Shri T.Padmanabhan .


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