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Environmental perspectives of development and displacement

Author: 
Ravichandran, M., Balamurugan, J. and Nithiya, P. T.
Subject Area: 
Life Sciences
Abstract: 

Economic development entails environmental cost. Striking a balance between the two is a wise theoretical solution. Real world situations are more complex and displacement of human habitats as an offshoot of development process is a case in point. In India, starting from Narmada Valley Project to the recent POSCO exemplified the vulnerability of the oustees and their deplorable life sustenance. Building large dams, mining, clearing forest set the primary objectives of promoting economic growth. Externalities caused by such activities result in degradation of environmental resources and loss of human habitats as well. While such large scale ventures appear essential to ensure progressive development and employment opportunity, the over exploitation of natural resources and the attendant pollution can never be ruled out; besides the affected people are marginalized and stakeholders form the voiceless majority. In this milieu, discussion of the following real stories may unfold the ground reality in India. The Narmada Valley project is still alive and controversies are unresolved yet. Narmada River is the bone of contention between the Government of Gujarat and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) an NGO. The Government claimed that the project would be beneficial in terms of irrigation hydropower (electricity), flood control, drinking water, increased storage capacity on the one hand, and the NGO resisted by indicating the dis-benefits; submergence of land as much as 37690 hectares in Gujarat, Maharastra, and Madyapradesh. There were displacement of 45000 families at full reservoir level, depletion of forests, water logging, problems of earth quakes, and political disputes. NBA, an NGO under Medha Patkar, has been opposing tooth and nail the project for its large scale displacement of people. Right from 1990-91 it highlighted the plight of the oustees and forced the World Bank to withdraw from the project. Gujarat Govt. claims 35000 families have been rehabilitated. NBA challenges it. Pohang Iron and Steel Company, Korea, (POSCO). The project envisages a steel plant, power plant and port. It also requires construction of 300 kms of railway track for transport of ore from mines to factory through forest area. POSCO project, worth US $ 12 billion, covered 1620 hectare of which 1440 hectare is forest land in the State of Odisha. Additional 2469 hectares of hilly area in Khandadhar were to be brought under mining. According to Government the project will displace only 466 families, about 2,500 people who will be adequately compensated. But the forest area is the livelihood for more than 10,000 to 15,000 people Compensation of Rs. 28.75 lakhs per hectare of acquired land is being offered. Betel farming provides Rs. 10- 17.5 lakhs per hectare per year. The compensation will be equal to 2-3 years of revenue. POSCO cannot employ locals as they are not skilled labors. POSCO may be development but will be development that takes the livelihood of the people for whom the project is meant for. It is a tussle between land based economic growth as against industrial growth. Social Justice propounded by Rawls needs to be invoked in this context. Policy makers understand their ‘Original Position’ and need to enter in into ‘Veil of ignorance’ to frame rules of forming a fair society towards achieving social justice.

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