ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Environment-Development Debate Continued

The debate has taken a new turn (“The Environment-Development Debate”, EPW, 8 January) with the claim that there is a fourth alternative to the options already suggested. The fourth alternative is to treat natural resources as capital for development. But this recommendation can hardly escape the dilemma posed in my rejoinder (“Livelihood Losses and National Gains”, 18 December 2010) to Jairam Ramesh: Who is to decide the costs of development? Can a corporate economist estimate the value of a depleted or destroyed forests, the resources of which a community or some communities have survived with according to a pattern of life and livelihood that has evolved through centuries of adaptation and innovation? The economist’s valuation is bound to be on the basis of market criteria alien or marginal to such communities. Unless the communities become a part of the decision-making, not through some phony public hearing but through transparent participation, the valuation will suffer from strong pulls of corporate profi tseeking and cost-cutting.

If the environment ministry imposes 199 conditions, and as often happens, there is little or no monitoring, corporate interests triumph and the people are thrown to the wolves. The very idea that laying down some conditions on paper will dispose of the poignant crisis is typically bureaucratic and therefore at the service of state-capital nexus.

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