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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Perpetual Shame

Year after year with sickening regularity and devastation the Brahmaputra valley is subjected to flooding in the monsoons. This is one area in which the "Power of We" or the organised strength of the masses, simply has not been able to bring about any improvement despite the obvious losses and inconvenience that people suffer. It is not as if there are no solutions to this recurring problem. The problem occurs because the heavy rainfall that takes place in short bursts runs off into the streams which then fill the rivers beyond their capacities leading to breaching of embankments and flooding of farms and even roads. The solution, therefore, is to prevent run off from the upper reaches of the catchment when the rain falls. This can be done in two ways. The first is by constructing a large number of water retaining structures big and small beginning with gully plugs and trenches and ending up with ponds and check dams on the small streams. The second is by recharging the water into deep underground aquifers at places where there are fractures in the underlying rock structure. If enough investments are made in these two activities then not only will the problem of floods be substantially mitigated but also the problem of maintaining the lean season flow of the major rivers will be adequately addressed.
Yet these measures are not adopted. Again there are two reasons for this. The first is that the big dam lobby and the politicians and bureaucrats who stand to gain from this are pushing for centralised investment in the construction of big dams on the various rivers instead of decentralised investment in water retention through local surface treatment and structures and recharge into underground aquifers. Secondly decentralised water management requires a high level of community cooperation and this is anathema to the mainstream political parties which are only interested in dividing the community and siphoning off the development funds through their local functionaries.
The net result is that the shameful tragedy of floods not only repeats itself but is getting more and more   devastating every year. Shown below is a photo of the terrible effect that the most recent floods have had in Assam.
A family has somehow created a temporary shelter above the flood waters in their village and one little girl is feeding her even smaller brother. One does not know where the family has got the food and how it has been cooked. It is a very heart rending picture. When the human race has progressed so much and has the wherewithal to prevent such a picture then why are the requisite measures not being taken?
It is pictures like these that make one sceptical about such facile slogans as "The Power of We". A serious grassroots movement against such injustices requires extensive mass work among the people and strong advocacy at the policy level. However, as the long drawn struggle for a saner water resource management policy has shown, the powers that be are in no mood to relent from pursuing their unjust and environmentally unsustainable water management policies.

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