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Equity and sustainability, the way forward, say environmental experts

JAIPUR: When we can't say carbon dioxide is yours and oxygen mine, it's time to stop playing solo and join hands together to work towards preservation of our fast depleting natural resources. At a session on 'Blue Planet, Green Earth' with Shekhar Pathak, vice president, World Mountain People Association, Suman Sahai,ecological scientist and winner of many awards for her outstanding contribution to agriculture and environment moderated by Ahmad Rafay Alam environmental lawyer and activist from Pakistan, what emerged was that the only way ahead is sustainable development.

Two key words that recurred throughout the discussion were 'equity' and 'sustainability.' "Tribals have an innate sense of preserving ecological balance. They intuitively know equity. Equity refers to the way we use our resources, both natural and financial. But we must also consider intergenerational equity," said Sahai. We have to ensure that we do not totally deplete the resources for the generations to come, she added.

Attributing the Naxal unrest in the Indian hinterland to a lack of equity, Sahai said, "If you neglect equity in sharing resources you are bound to have risings like the ones in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Public hearing for any development project is a great tool. It's a two way democratic process that works towards information dissemination and empowering the local communities as well as developing awareness on rights."

Speaking about sustainability Pathak said, "Sustainability is not about making the entire world speak a single language, but allowing the diversity to flourish so that each one can exercise their right to free will. As the most evolved beings on this planet, it is our responsibility to worry about other species too."

Environmentalist Alam citing the story of the Indus Treaty as the second half ecological disaster of the partition said, "We tamed a river and destroyed her. As a result there have been three floods in Pakistan." He also questioned the practicality of urban service economies, citing the movement within his country Pakistan, back to a rural agrarian base.

Concerned about the apathy towards environment that sustains humankind, Sahai said, "Only when the last tree has withered and the last fish caught and the last river poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money." She spoke at length of her Gene Campaign initiative, which works to ensure farmers retain 
intellectual property rights to their seeds, a legal precedent that only exists in India.

The Times of India (21-01-2014)