Home Magazines Cover Story Selling The Family Silver? Are India’s Economists Eating Into Our Natural Capital And Calling It Economics?

Selling The Family Silver? Are India’s Economists Eating Into Our Natural Capital And Calling It Economics?

Everyone agrees that India has been blessed by natural riches that gave birth to our civilisation and cultures. Here Neha Sinha writes that imprudent development ambitions authored by economists and planners today threatens more than just our heritage… a changing climate, coupled with the loss of our natural capital has begun to shake the stable foundation upon which India’s economic edifice precariously stands.

One of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, sits in an embarassing contrast next to the highly-polluted Yamuna river, one of India’s natural wonders that lies in a pathetic state caused by the very people it feeds. Photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee

Until the lion learns how to write, each story will glorify the hunter, says an African proverb. To this, we should add that if it is only the government that gets to decide what development means, tree-felling, wetland-filling, and coastal destruction will inevitably be glorified as ‘development’. This is fast eroding India’s ecological base, upon which the water, food, social and climatic security of 1.3 billion souls is dependent.

Over the past four years, our Government has assured us of a climate change mitigation plan and promised a Clean and Green India. Simultaneously, however it has injected legislations and policies that have seriously undercut, often completely dismantled, environmental and wildlife safeguards.

Given the evidence before us of failing agricultural yields, deteriorating health on account of polluted air and water and increasingly unreliable climate patterns, reckless growth is no longer an option – development just has to have ecological literacy.

Species such as these Indian roofed turtles are considered acceptable collateral damage by infrastructure and real estate developers, who do not understand the value of India’s rivers, wetlands, coasts and other ecosystems. Photo: Sudhanshu Tiwari


India was admired in the 1980s for possessing some of the world’s most visionary environmental laws. But all that is changing.

The Wetland Rules of 2010, a hard-fought legislation, which placed identification and protection of wetlands at its heart, has been replaced with the much weaker Wetland Rules 2017. While we got ourselves a Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, a concomitant legislation, to dredge the very rivers the Ministry is mandated to protect, was also passed. The National Waterways Act, 2016, will straighten and dredge over 100 rivers to convert...

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