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Bahar Dutt
Tuesday , January 29, 2013

A Prime Minister's Office that does not support green laws

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In a recent Cabinet meeting, according to media reports, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that green laws are the new 'license raj'. This is not the first time the Prime Minister's office has expressed this view - in 2011 too, in a public forum he emphasised that 'saving the environment could not be at the cost of development'. The disdain of the Prime Minister for green laws is obvious when in 2008, as part of UPA -I, Manmohan Singh arrived in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh to lay the foundation stone for the 3000 MW hydropower Dibang Dam, touted to be Asia's tallest dam even though the dam had yet to get environment and forest clearance from the Environment Ministry. Incidentally, the reason why the environment clearance was not through was, the public hearing had not yet been conducted that's mandated by law, under the Environment (Protection) Act, which was....

Monday , July 23, 2012

The Environment Ministry is back to its old days

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From one minister who came across as a loose cannon (Jairam Ramesh), to another who is now rarely seen or heard in the media (Jayanthi Natarajan), the dusty corridors of the Environment and Forest Ministry has seen many radical changes these last five years. This month Jayanthi Natarajan will complete one year of being in the Environment Ministry - an appropriate time to analyze how she has fared since she took charge. Natarajan in her first interaction with the media made it clear she that she would maintain a low profile but would continue to talk tough when it came to protecting the nation's natural environment and resources. Her low profile in the media in subsequent months had us convinced that hers would be a stoic but mature response to a Ministry that has courted many a controversy in recent times. The Minister may have got good press,....

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

India bashing in the western media: is India in need of a major public relations exercise?

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It's that time of the year again. Yes, the end of the year, but the start of a another summit on climate change. This is my third year at the climate change negotiations. And I could write the script in my sleep now. The big daddy US opposes, the EU acts like a martyr (like it's the only bloc interested in a serious treaty,) India bristles, and China, well continues to add a thermal power plant every hour. As part of hundreds of journalists who converge every year at this conference, we are all now familiar faces, at least to each other! As laptops and iPads blaze away at the media centre, I wonder are we all filing the same story? Clearly not. Climate change negotiations are strongly linked to perceptions and projections. And the projections are based on how the media reports on them. For instance, how....

Saturday , May 28, 2011

Arctic: an intensive care unit for Planet Earth

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May 27, 2011 The day was full of much action. It was snowing in the morning as we headed out with the scientists from the Indian research station Himadri. I cannot but help admire these people who come from a tropical country but are living here in the polar region simply for the love of science and good research. We head out in a boat towards the fjord where instruments are immersed in the water to check for micro-organisms, temperature, and chlorophyll levels. Oceans act as good carbon sinks so the work being done by the Indian scientists right now is to look at how this role of the oceans and their ability to act as sinks will change in the coming years as temperatures rise. Science is a painstaking process and scientists spend hours and days in extreme weather conditions collecting data. Its also a process many of....

Friday , May 27, 2011

On the road to the Arctic

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The first signs that this journey is going to be full of a lot of adventure? We miss our connections from the quaint airport of Helsinki to Oslo. Its not easy getting to the Arctic, even though it may seem made easy by modern day travel. But even most sophisticated airjets get hit by volcanic ash. It has thrown flights at most European airports in a tizzy. But I am amazed by the almost zen like attitude with which the Europeans face such disasters even as their summer plans go for a toss. I can just imagine the pandemonium which would break out if flights were cancelled at any of our Indian airports. As Indians strangely we are the worst behaved in our own land. Passengers would be shouting at helpless airline staff, dropping names, threatening to call up some minister or VIP if they are not put on the....

Thursday , April 28, 2011

Jaitapur debate: A victim of shadowboxing

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On the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster the Indian government announced it will remain committed to its ambitious plans to build a nuclear power plant at Jaitapur. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithvi Raj Chavan washed his hands off the violent protests at the site by stating to the Prime Minister that there are "outside elements" involved in the protests that broke out last week which led to the death of one person, Jaitapur has become a victim of shadow boxing. Not one announcement made by the Prime Minister's office will assuage the people of Jaitapur. Even the media which could have kept up the pressure dismissed the protests last week as incited by the Shiv Sena and therefore not worthy of any attention. "Typical of the Shiv Sena to politicize the issue" claimed angry editorials and viewers responses on television debates. Angry readers wrote in....

Friday , December 10, 2010

It's Cha Cha Cha in Cancun

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As Environment Ministers from different countries fly into Cancun, the final round of talks has now started. And its like the world is sitting on one long merry-go-round ride that refuses to end. US wants out of the Kyoto protocol, so does Japan, India postures as the mother superior, first to Africa and the G77 group and then to the Small Island States, but also forms its own alliance called as BASIC, China is apprehensive but generously offers to voluntarily cut emissions, small island states want to make it clear that size doesn't matter. As each country continues its posturing, you are left wondering - hey, whatever happened to saving planet earth from a 2 degree rise in global temperatures? Yes, it's easy to be cynical and dismissive about the heavy complicated task of decoding a text that's heavily bracketed (which in UN parlance means there....

Thursday , September 09, 2010

Why Rahul shouldn't have gone to Niyamgiri

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Kalahandi, once known for its starvation deaths, is today the epicentre of the environment vs development debate. For the last seven years a small tribal community has managed to take their fight from the foothills of the Niyamgiri hills to the high streets of London. But it was not until the Environment Ministry echoed the violations raised by the Dongriya Kondhs, did the issue take centrestage. While it may seem like victory for now for this green movement, those who are being made as the 'green heroes', may actually have done far greater damage by their 'display of solidarity'. Perhaps the biggest damage to this people's movement is through Rahul Gandhi's visit last week of Niyamgiri. Rahul Gandhi has made a legitimate people's movement seem like a stage-managed show for his announcement as the messiah of the oppressed in the corridors of power in Delhi. At his press....

Thursday , August 19, 2010

Mangroves can't vote

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Pushing for news stories in a mainstream news channel or newspaper can have its challenges.The green cause is often seen as expendable. And why blame the media. For most of us who live in cities, the growing perception is that environmentalists are impeding development . Take one look at the environment stories making headlines- An airport stalled because its coming in the way of mangroves? Mangroves ? who cares about the silly mangroves. All we care about is how much your flight has to cruise over the Mumbai skies because there's heavy congestion at the airport. So lets build another airport. And oh the mangroves - well we will just chop them and put some big tetrapods and save ourselves against rising sea levels, in any case most of them would have got soiled by the oil-spill. Just as well. Mr Ramesh our dear environment minister - please allow us....

Friday , June 25, 2010

Biologist denied visa : Should media report this?

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This week we did a story on Faiyaz Khudsar. Faiyaz is a wildlife biologist who has been working on reviving the Yamuna Biodiversity Park a flagship project of the Delhi University and has a Phd from the Wildlife Institute of India with fifteen years of experience in the field of wildlife conservation. On the 1st of June he was invited by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC to get trained on tiger conservation. All the other 10 forest officials selected with Faiyaz had their visa cleared. But not Faiyaz. His visa was sent back to him by the American Embassy on June 19th, that's 19 days after he was to leave -with no explanation. When we did this story- asking why his visa was rejected many viewers wrote in saying - that they too have had their visa rejected many a time and it has nothing to do with....


More about Bahar Dutt

Bahar Dutt is a wildlife conservationist by training. She has worked for the last ten years on crucial wildlife conservation projects in India and abroad. In England she worked at the world famous Jersey Zoo set up by naturalist Gerald Durrell and was involved in assessing the conditions for release of endangered primate in the Amazon forests. . She has over 10 awards to her credit including the Ramnath Goenka Award in 2006 and the Wildscreen Award , UK and the Young Environment Journalist Award 2007. As an environment editor at CNN-IBN she has done a range of stories travelling to far and forgotten corners of this country to expose the nexus between the mining mafia, politicians and corporates. She has posed as a furniture maker to expose the illegal trade in banned timber in the Western Ghats, and the nexus between the police and a mining company in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa. One of her most dramatic exposés involved a cement company of global dimensions that had been operating illegally in the forests of Meghalaya on the India-Bangladesh border. More recently, she and the CNN-IBN team exposed the operations of a miner in Goa who had illegally devastated forest lands. Their story led to the shut down of the mine.


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