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The Hindu on indiaserver.com : Drought due to flawed strategies: PM

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Wednesday, May 17, 2000


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Drought due to flawed strategies: PM

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MAY 16. The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, today called for making environmental security a national mission - a movement that involves the people.

``Only when we give people a direct stake in protecting the environment - be it watershed management, forest conservation or pollution control - that they will become active partners of Government,'' he said, while inaugurating the State Forest Ministers conference here.

To achieve the said goal, the Prime Minister proposed a sustained awareness campaign involving panchayats, community organisations, voluntary associations, municipal bodies, corporate sector and educational institutions. Citing the Chipko movement as an example, he said voluntary associations, through peoples' participation, have successfully handled several conservation projects.

He said environment-related issues were fast occupying the centrestage of national and international concern and maintaining ecological balance - already rendered fragile by the excesses of the 20th century - would be integral to development programmes and India could be no exception.

Though his address was brief, Mr.Vajpayee could not avoid mentioning drought and the present crisis the country is passing through. ``The devastation wrought by the drought in several parts of the country is a manifestation of the ill effects of excesses that have resulted from flawed development strategies. In the name of development and modernity, these strategies have destroyed traditional life-sustaining structures and systems for short-term gains,'' he lamented.

Specifically referring to the elaborate rainwater harvesting system that had been created centuries ago in Rajasthan after carefully mapping the terrain, Mr.Vajpayee noted with regret that it had been ``destroyed to facilitate widescale mining, licenses for which were issued by the Government.''

Seen from the narrow perspective of development models that seek to deliver instant jobs and immediate wealth, these mines were a boon for the people living in least developed regions, but years later vast tracts of the State once served by the traditional viaduct are in the grip of a severe drought.

Observing that the ancient water harvesting system alone may not have been able to prevent drought but at least minimised the impact and mitigated the suffering of the people, the Prime Minister held out an appeal to all : ``Let us not destroy traditional life-sustaining structures and systems that exist. Let us preserve, strengthen and add to them to secure sustainable development.''

At the same time, he added, that protecting the environment does not mean putting a stop to developmental activity or a halt to progress. ``The need is to balance progress and consumption with conservation of resources,'' Mr.Vajpayee stressed, further highlighting the need for addressing environmental concerns while preparing development policies.

The Union Minister for Environment & Forests, Mr.T.R.Baalu, said the two-day conference would focus on an `Agenda of Action' for ensuring sustainability of the developmental process. He reiterated the Government's commitment in various important issues affecting the environment including efforts for preserving the tiger, reducing Green House Gas emissions under the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, handling movement of hazardous wastes in an environmentally sound manner compatible with the objectives of the Basel Convention.

The conference is being attended by all State Forest Ministers and State Forest Secretaries and the Ministry officials.

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