The Trend to Push  Harmful and Disruptive Projects as Eco-Protective Should Be Checked Before It Is Too Late

Tehri Dam

The seriousness of climate change and the wider ecological crisis cannot be denied any more and so there is increasing pressure on big business interests and those colluding with them for more restraint. Instead of responding by making efforts for genuine change some of these powerful interests have been trying to push their projects and even policy in a direction which can be very harmful and can badly hinder the efforts for resolving the ecological crisis by pushing policy towards wrong track.

One such effort is to get harmful and disruptive dam projects classified somehow as renewable energy projects and ecologically protective projects. Such efforts are being made even in the context of highly unsafe projects in the seismic and sensitive regions like the Himalayan region where these projects have already played a big role in  highly destructive accentuation of disasters, a phenomenon which has been extensive documented even by officially sanctioned committees. The rationale of such projects in terms of genuine cost-benefit analysis is weak, particularly when considered in context of comparative analysis with other sources of obtaining same benefits at lower costs,  The socially disruptive aspects and safety questions regarding several of these projects are well-known,   and all this would be enough to disqualify them in most cases, but in addition the claim of such projects to contribute to checking climate change, based on providing an energy source that does not use fossil fuels, should be seriously challenged, as several of these projects directly and indirectly involve destruction of forests and trees and greenery, generally in ecologically crucial hilly areas, capable of absorbing carbon dioxide, while at the same time the submerged rotting vegetation in dam reservoirs leads to emission of another greenhouse gas methane.

Many bio-fuel  projects have faced widespread criticism for their obvious harmful impact on food security , but these have been promoted in a big way nevertheless for their publicized benefits of reducing fossil fuels and hence contributing to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  What is ignored in this analysis is that bio-fuels are obtained almost always by intensively cultivated  monocultures and this form of agriculture  itself involves emission of a lot of greenhouse gas emissions in direct and indirect ways. The harm would be even more if  bio-fuel monocultures are planted after clear-felling  natural forests. On the one hand if land devoted to bio-fuel monocultures is instead cultivated on the basis of agro-ecology, including well-protected groves, trees and pastures as part of a very mixed farm system, then this as well as the resulting increase in the organic content of soil over a wide areas is capable of absorbing a lot of greenhouse gas emissions .

These are a few examples of the way in which highly dubious projects are being wrongly called eco-protective and are even getting subsidies and speedy clearances as a result, as several officials colluding with the promoters are only too willing to accept these dubious claims. In fact there is even evidence in several countries of highly ecologically destructive projects being promoted as part of a wrongly stated eco-protective agenda. If this trend continues, the agenda of moving towards an ecologically protective path will be hijacked towards ecologically as well as socially disruptive projects and nothing could be more harmful for the efforts to protect environment. Hence it is very important to check this trend with a sense of urgency before it is too late.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Man Over Machine.



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