Environment suffered heavily after liberalization

Bengaluru : Historian Ramachandra Guha on Saturday said the environment has borne the brunt of liberalization in India. “Liberalization led to more jobs, new ideas and higher foreign exchange. However, the mining boom also resulted in river pollution and tribal displacement. There were no Naxals in Odisha before,” he said.

Addressing a conference at the Indian Institute of Management – Bangalore, Guha said, “Liberalization meant having to remove regulations in many sectors, but ideally they should have been strengthened for the environment. It was in the rational interest of a firm to pollute a river because somebody else was bearing the cost,” he said. The country’s third wave of environmentalism, starting 25 years after India embarked on the process of economic liberalization, will need to have social activism, community work and scientific research as its three pillars, he said.

The first wave was before and after independence, when many prominent people wrote on ecological balance, which was followed by a second wave in the 1970s and 80s, which witnessed the Chipko movement and the Narmada Bachao Andolan spearheaded by Medha Patkar. The third wave will have to be accompanied by changes in public policy and individual behaviour.

Akshaya Patra chairman Madhu Pandit Das warned against blind imitation of western models of growth, which had come at the cost of the environment. “India urgently needs an indigenous sustainability model, in harmony with its economy, society and culture. Such a holistic growth model can help India evolve into a vibrant nation, if not a superpower,” he added.

Though the other speakers voiced no objections to India’s emergence, they did agree on the need to strike a balance between industrialisation and the environment. Guha also said media had abdicated its role as an environmental watchdog after the 1990s.


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