Rio declaration — a shallow deal
The Earth Summit 2012 at the Brazilian city of Rio took the world one step ahead and several backwards.
The one step forward was over 140 head of states coming together for protecting environment after a year of negotiations. And, several steps backwards were a hollow declaration signed by them at Rio taking the globe back to 1992 (first Earth Summit) era.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20 called “The Future We Want” ended last week and action oriented zero draft was turned into a meaningless bit of paper. It contains not even a single actionable commitment for the future generations that we will not destroy the mother earth.
After the Rio conference, I was in my home state of Himachal and I realized that why Rio was important. For me, a regular visitor to the state, devastation of pursing high growth without norms to protect environment was visible.
Every piece of private land available on national highway from Parwanoo, from where Himachal starts, to Shimla has been bought. The placid green cover has been removed and hills brought down by the rich and influential — mostly from outside the state. The ruling BJP government has played facilitator.
I hope that the Red (Left) now entrenched in Town Hall in Shimla, stop this economic madness in their jurisdiction and turn the city green.
What BJP did jelled well with Rio’s definition of sustainable growth, at least theoretically. It said new infrastructure and industry will mean 70 % of jobs for poor locals, a Rio norm of sustainable growth to eradicate poverty. In real terms, it has not happened. A slew of RTI replies showed that over 90 % of the industries have failed to meet the norm despite the Himachalis available for these jobs.
A counter argument would be that Indians have got the job. So, why squabble. But, most of the outsiders come only for a job and not to sustain the local environment. Its impacts are visible in several places in Himachal such as Baddi and Kala Amb, who have gone down on environment performance indicators in less than a decade.
The Himachal example is also true for large parts of mineral rich and tribal dominated India, where industry has minted money at the cost of environment without providing sustainable livelihood to locals.
Many environmentalists expected that Rio 2012 will finalise definite norms to save nature for future generations. It didn’t, probably, the leaders had global economic turmoil in their minds. The world’s environmental leader Europe is the worst hit and was not ready to take any additional financial commitments. US president Barack Obama is not willing to take any progressive steps in his election year and many others in the developed world such as Canada and Australia don’t care much about environment. The only wanted to weaken the Rio principles of 1992, in which, they failed.
The question we need to ask is whether the nature will wait for the global economic situation to improve before hitting back. It has already started, may be the economic pundits cannot see.
Hills of Shimla is facing worst drought for several decades, drinking water is on sale in Shimla town and fans and air-conditioners are being bought like hot cakes. It comes after one the coldest and harshest winters the once summer capital of British Raj has seen.
We would have liked the world leaders at Rio to provide us with definite answers. They haven’t. I think, it is time, for us to stand up at the local levels to protect environment and seek better-transparent and people inclusive norms to save the environment and not wait for silly global environment conferences such as the one in Rio, where world leaders deliberately fight on petty issues.