NGT and Environmental Activism – World Cultural Festival!



(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

The NGT and environmentalist must address more important strategic issues adversely affecting national security interests instead of falling into the partisan media trap of high decibel cacophony over the “World Cultural Festival”.

I believe strongly in maintaining the pristine purity of nature; but not at the growth and development of India.

Of course, environmental activists need issues to remain relevant. Also, partisan media and pseudo panelists spread mania around.

I dare challenge all the so called environmental activists and media to first take the mother of all strategic challenges faced by modern India – population explosion.

How can the poor “Mother India” bear the burden of nearly 2 billion people by 2050? Let them carry out a sustained campaign on the most important issue rather than indulging in cacophony day ion day out on partisan basis.

It is the most daunting threat that is going to engulf modern India.

Yet, none of the environmental activists and media has spearheaded a movement to stop the rot of population explosion? Why?

Of course, political parties and leaders would not pass laws or orders like 2-Child norm, to control population explosion out of fear of losing their “vote banks”.

Similarly, the judiciary would not like to address and advise the government to tackle the issue appropriately.

And, the civil society organizations too are mortally scared to take up the issue mortally afraid of communal backlash.

However, environmental activists sitting in AC chambers decked with decorative plywood panels in New Delhi and other metros take up issues like the World Cultural Festival, Nuclear Power Plants at various locations, and so on, to remain relevant.

Let me cite a few examples where the environmental activists have woefully failed.

On my first foray and stint in NEFA in 1961, I was exposed pristine centuries old “Forests” with trees as tall 100-200 feet high.

During my next stint in Sikkim in 1981, I saw the steady denudation of forests. Subsequently, I saw the worst decimation of forests in the whole of North East what with hundreds of “Veneer and Saw” Mills along the foot hills peeling away “Veneer” to make plywood to deck up the needs of Delhites and other metros.

Now, the denudation of forests in the North East is nearly complete.  No wonder, floods ravage Assam valley with the first spell of rains.

Next, sand mafias are everywhere in India.  No environmental activism to protect river beds which serve as means to retain underground water.

What is more disturbing is illegal beach sand mining of minerals by the sand mafia’s on all our sea coasts including Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Since 2005, 2.1 million tonnes of monazite, equivalent to 195,300 tonnes of Thorium at 9.3 per cent recovery has disappeared from India in the past one decade. Thorium is the cheapest and cleanest fuel source which can ensure our energy security. It is the largest loot the nation has ever suffered.

According to media reports over Rs 60 lakh crore worth strategically important beach sand minerals from the coastal lines of the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu were smuggled out of the country from the year 2004 to 2013. The loot is still in progress, unhindered.

“World monazite resources are estimated to be about 12 million tonnes, two-thirds of which are in heavy mineral sands deposits on the south and east coasts of India as per the World Nuclear Association,” said expert Bahram Ghiassee of London’s Kingston University.

Earlier UPA and UDF has tacitly supported by keeping mum on this smuggling while rulers in Tamil Nadu directly benefited from it as revealed in the connections between main accused in the investigative report and political leaders.

Wake up Delhi-centric environmental activists! Anand Arya, a birdwatcher and activist, Manoj Misra, Convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan (Long Live Yamuna Campaign), and the likes appearing before the NGT or visual media channels have all dismally failed to take up more significant issues than the “World Youth Festival”.

And, the media houses with insatiating greed and urge to sensationalize news have singled out the “World Cultural Festival” on the so called Yamuna Flood plains for embarrassing the organizers and the governments.

What an irony and pity for the nation?

Let me also highlight how the so called environmental activists can stall strategic issues affecting national security.

During my visit to Indira Point, the Southernmost tip of India, in Great Nicobar Island, I was deeply impressed by the geo strategic significance of the land mass straddling the “International Shipping Lanes” through Straits of Malacca.

On enquiry as to why a strategic air base has not been developed, the answer I got was that Salim Ali, ornithologist and naturalist, sometimes referred to as the “birdman of India”, and a Padma Vibhusan and Padma Bhusan awardee protested against developing the airfield and the project got stalled.

Surely, such a key geo strategic location cannot be left unexploited to satisfy the whims and fancies of a person howsoever he may passionate to pursue his hobby.

My nest issue is with the NGT.  When the NGT has dismally failed to address such key issues adversely affecting Indian economic interests in the way of forests, river beds, sea coasts etc., why is it making such a fuss over the World Cultural Festival?

Wake up NGT?  Address more critical environmental issues wherein monumental scams have taken place and continuing to take place starting the “Population Control” measures, strategic resources scams and other key strategic issues.

Do not try to hog limelight by passing value judgments at the last moment. First address more critical strategic issues.