Friday, June 22, 2012

Rio +20 - The Indian Perspective

To quote from the Prime Minister's speech at the Rio+20 summit here in Brazil: "Sustainable development (also) mandates the efficient use of available natural resources. We have to be much more frugal in the way we use natural resources. A key area of focus is energy. We have to promote, universal access to energy, while, at the same time, promoting energy efficiency and a shift to cleaner energy sources by addressing various technological, financial and institutional constraints."


Dr. Manmohan Singh also stressed the need to find 'new pathways for sustainable living', saying current consumption patterns in the industrialised world are unsustainable.

But this is exactly where Indian NGOs, present at the summit say India could have used the opportunity to show some leadership at the summit and even practice what it is trying to preach to other nations across the world.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, representatives of different NGOs write: "India is no exception to the global trends (of massive hunger, poverty, unemployment, and various forms of deprivation). Recent evidence suggests we too are beyond our natural limits, and we too have glaring inequalities that are only getting worse. Our own 'development' path, in particular over the last 20 years, has shown scant respect for either environment or for communities dependent on nature. And the only response to repeated ecological and economic crises is conventional strategies and 'reforms' ... in other words, more of the same poison that has created or worsened the problem in the first place.


Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh stressed the urgent need to have people-centric policies, "While it's fine to say it's (unsustainable practices) happening at a global level, it is very much happening in India as well."

In fact, both the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister have said that they are satisfied with the restoration of the centrality of the principles of common but differentiated goals in the outcome document, but as NGOs point out "Even as India justifiably asserts the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities' at Rio, and seeks preferential access to technologies and financial resources, you cannot ignore the fact that within our own country, the rich and powerful behave the same way towards the poor and the weak, as industrialised countries do towards 'developing' nations."

"India has to stop hiding behind the poor and using equity as a shield", said Biraj Swain of Oxfam India.

Soumya Dutta added, "Voices of resistance are being criminalised. It is important to preserve the democratic space."

But the biggest lament seemed to be absence of strong voice here at the summit. Sejal Worah of WWF, India said, "We are losing our leadership edge. I've not heard India's voice here at all. It seems we are happy with the situation and want the status quo to be maintained."

And just as India committed a major funding at Los Cabos during the G20 summit to recapitalise the IMF (International Monetary Fund), many feel that it's time some charity begins at home as well.