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The Hindu on : Ecological aggression unfair: UNEP chief

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Sunday, March 04, 2001

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Ecological aggression unfair: UNEP chief

By Kalpana Sharma

CAPE TOWN, MARCH 3. The head of the United Nations Environment Programme feels ``the ecological aggression of developed countries against developing countries'' is unfair. Dr. Klaus Toepfer, speaking exclusively to The Hindu at the end of the three-day forum meeting of the World Commission on Dams said this was so because the consumption patterns of the developed world had not changed. He was speaking in the context of global climate change and decreasing biodiversity.

Expressing concern over the increasing gap between the rich and poor with more people living in absolute poverty conditions, Dr. Toepfer said the most important aspect of ``sustainable development'' remained development.``The developed world must avoid asking developing countries to pay for environmental deterioration.''

Dr. Toepfer's organisation had offered to assist in the follow-up on the extensive and detailed WCD report - Dams and Development: A new framework for decision-making. ``If we can't link the WCD process with the overall debate on sustainable development, we'll be missing a chance,'' he said. The timing of the report was significant as the ninth meeting of the Council for Sustainable Development, the follow-up mechanism to the Rio conference on Environment and Development, was addressing the issue of energy. In this context, it was essential to discuss some of the findings of the report.

``The issue of dams has been misunderstood as an isolated topic,'' said Dr. Toepfer, ``at the end of the day, people want water and energy. Let's get the best option. We should not just think of supply-side solutions.''

South Africa will host the World Summit on Sustainable Development or Rio Plus Ten next year. And the UNEP chief, who will be organising it, said it was important to remember that in 1992, when the U.N. conference on Environment and Development was held, the world was just coming out of the era of bipolarism. Today, we are at the centre of a globalised world. ``We now have to add to environment and development, the question of globalisation. How can we make this work for the poor, for the environment?''

It had to be done ``without paying the high price of losing identity.'' Dr. Toepfer said people in many parts of the world were increasingly equating globalisation with uniformity. ``We have learnt from nature that diversity means strength while monocultures are destructive.''

Dr. Toepfer hoped the Rio Plus Ten conference would not become just a ``super environment summit'' but could concretely establish that ``environmental protection is a precondition to stable economic development.''

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