Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Water in Peril

March 22nd is celebrated as World Water Day every year. This year two NGOs in Indore organised a discussion on Wastewater Recycling to mark the day. There was a desultory audience of about thirty people and five people were on the dais as experts. Four of these experts were Government servants in various departments concerned with water while one was a professor in a Government Engineering College. After the presentations made by these experts the audience was given only fifteen minutes to express their views. In a situation in which the government is primarily responsible for water pollution through acts of omission and commission and there is very little civic awareness about the ways in which this problem can be addressed it was indeed a reflection of the sorry state of affairs that it was the government officials who held forth from the dais with platitudes which are never implemented.
At a national level the World Water Day this year came at a time when the retired professor of Civil Engineering Dr G. D. Agarwal was on a fast unto death demanding that the River Ganges be properly protected against damming in its upper reaches, sand and stone mining and the release of untreated urban and industrial wastes. Even though he finally broke his fast after a written assurance from the Prime Minister that his concerns would be looked into there is very little chance of this actually happening. The interests involved in damming rivers and mining sand and stone from them are well known. However, what is less known and equally harmful is the interests involved in waste water disposal. Collection of waste water through a sewage system and its later treatment at huge waste treatment plants before release into natural water bodies and rivers is an extremely costly affair both in terms of initial capital investments and later operation and maintenance costs. A much better solution is for waste water to be treated at source and either recycled or recharged. This should be done by the entities or persons who are generating the waste water and should not be the responsibility of governments whether at the local or the central level. However, since generators of waste water do not want to bear this cost and there is an influential lobby in business and government that wants it to be done centrally so as to earn super profits this is the option that is chosen. Nevertheless given the huge costs involved governments are not able to carry out centralised treatment and disposal and so throughout the country surface and ground water is being severely polluted. The much vaunted plan to clean the Ganges river has become a farce and the National Ganga River Basin Authority is for all intents and purposes a non functioning body.
All the government experts on the dais of the World Water Day event in Indore are seriously culpable for the pollution of surface and groundwater in the city and yet it is they who were exhorting the thin audience to adopt recycling of waste water in a decentralised manner!  Even the very basic practice of installing separate water supply systems for the toilets and treating and recycling the toilet, bathroom and kitchen water in homes, hotels and offices has not been adopted in the city.
What was most disturbing was that the two NGOs that were organising the event thought it fit to give the forum to such out and out hypocrites instead of engaging in a serious discussion of possibilities with citizens of the city who have indeed undertaken important waste water recycling projects in a decentralised manner. There is an active public movement for waste water recycling in the country and it would have been far more useful if the activists of this movement had been invited for a more participatory discussion than arranging such an event and providing a platform for government servants.

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