The UPA government ever since it retuned to power has been embarking on a series of measures that would undermine India’s interest, be it foreign policy, border issue, international trade or tackling terrorism. Latest in the series is the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s proposal that India should go back on its Kyoto Protocol commitments on climate change. The minister’s stand is shocking to put it mildly. Yet another decision relating to the ministry is the allowing of commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) brinjals.
The world got together in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, to work out a regimen for all to arrest the process of global warming. The Kyoto Protocol ratified by 184 countries (as of October 2009) has not been agreed to by the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG)-the United States. That country alone, according to Wikipedia, accounts for 36.1 per cent of 1990 emission levels. A report of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), released on October 21, 2009, said the emission level of the US has gone up by 20.2 per cent since 1990 and that of Australia by 42.6 per cent, Canada 29.5 per cent and Japan 14 per cent. The Protocol places the onus on the developed countries to provide money and technology to other countries for climate control-related projects.
The developed countries, which have less than one-fifth of the world population, account for more than half of world’s pollution and environmental degradation. The developed countries, led by the US, have been crying shrill, asking India and China to accept new emission norms. If accepted, they could put a spoke in the development process in India. The argument of the rich countries is that the two Asian giants contribute to pollution because of the sheer size of the population. What they fail to concede and wilfully overlook is the fact that the per capita emission rates of the rich countries are five or six times more than that of the populated nations. For instance, according to a recent study, the carbon monoxide emission of a car in the US is five times more than that in India.
The developing countries, led by India till now have held their position, in trying to make the rich nations accept responsibility for the poison they spew. By suggesting that India should change its stand on Kyoto Protocol, which calls upon all nations in the world to bear the responsibility equally, the minister has attempted to break the spirit of the developing nations.
The opposition has been quick in responding to the issue and the minister has tried to wriggle out of the loop, with the PMO playing the tune that it was only a suggestion. The political and public uproar hopefully has nipped the mischief in the bud.
Nature care, love for environment and avoiding wasteful lifestyles are in-built in the cultures of Asia, especially India. While the developed countries pile up plastic and other wastes, the Asian countries firmly believe in recycling. Now those countries have started exporting their waste to us for recycling and dumping.
On the GM crops issue too the immediate beneficiary are the American MNCs, who have been trying to make inroads into India. The move has been resisted till now by several NGOs. But the government-appointed committee on GM foods has given the go-ahead for the commercial cultivation of brinjal, an Indian vegetable. One of the biggest threats of the GM crops and foreign seeds is that the variations of the vegetables will vanish and we would be left with just a couple of varieties that the seed manufacturer finds profitable. Former Health Minister A Ramadoss has pointed out in a letter to the Prime Minister that India has more than 2500 varieties of brinjal. The health concerns have not been addressed at all. The argument that more than half the brinjal crops are wasted due to pest attacks and hence need pest resistance seeds does not hold water because the same argument given in the Bt Cotton case has led to disastrous environmental problems. The cotton seeds that were modified for pest resistance killed several plants along with weeds and created damage to the biodiversity, which is yet to be measured and documented. Jairam Ramesh’s reaction to the issue was curt: “I’ll not be blackmailed by the NGOs.” But can he be coerced by the MNC seeds lobby?
The UPA would do well to listen to reason and consult various opinions and respond to concerned calls of citizens before taking decisions that would affect not just this but the future generations of India, considering also the damage it does to nature in its haste to please the commercial lobbies would be irreversible.