A people’s campaign to rebuild Kerala

The material loss due to the Kerala floods has been estimated at Rs. 26,000 crore, but beyond this there has been an immense loss of natural, human, and social capital for which no estimates are available. There is no doubt that the short-sighted attempts in building man-made capital (buildings in hilly forests, encroachments on wetlands and rivers, and stone quarries) while ignoring the attendant degradation of natural, human and social capital have played a significant role in exacerbating the problem. The immediate task in the State is relief and rehabilitation, but it is crucial to simultaneously identify the root causes of the havoc. The root causes These root causes prevail throughout the Western Ghats and, indeed, the rest of the country. The first is the flouting of laws that have been established to safeguard natural capital. The Shah Commission inquiring into illegal mining in Goa observes that mining beyond permissible limits has caused serious damage to water resources, agriculture and biodiversity. Second, we have been ignoring serious degradation of human capital in terms of health and employment. In the case of the Plachimada panchayat in Palakkad district, overuse and pollution of water resources by the Coca Cola factory has resulted in losses to the tune of Rs. 160 crore. Third, scientific knowledge and advice has been continually disregarded. In the case of the proposed Athirappilly hydroelectric project, an analysis by the River Research Centre showed that the project document had seriously overestimated the availability of water. The data examined showed that the likely power production in no way justified the costs of construction and running of the project. And fourth, there has been serious erosion of social capital. For instance, Anoop Vellolippil, a staunch anti-quarry activist engaging in a peaceful demonstration, was killed when he was pelted with stones by those allegedly employed by quarry owners at Kaiveli in Vadakara Taluk of Kozhikkode district on December 16, 2014. The right of local communities Therefore, it is imperative that we abandon business as usual. We cannot just focus on man-made capital; we must enhance the sum total of man-made, natural, human and social capital. The new regime that we must usher in while keeping this in mind must acknowledge that it is local communities that have a genuine stake in the health of their ecosystems and an understanding of the working of the same. The current system of protecting natural resources through negative incentives in the hands of a coercive and corrupt bureaucracy must give way to positive incentives that can be monitored in a transparent fashion by all concerned citizens.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-peoples-campaign-to-rebuild-kerala/article24814551.ece

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