Open Letter to PM Manmohan Singh

Letters / Opinions

Amareesh calls upon the Indian PM to protect natural ecosystems and end the use of coal.

I am pleased to see your recent statements indicating the need for economic development to be environmentally sustainable. Yet, I am writing to respectfully express concerns with the lack of effective land-use planning laws in India, and to make some specific observations on how to achieve ecological sustainability. India faces ecological collapse soon on a regional scale unless national land-use and climate-change regulatory programs are implemented immediately. To develop in an equitable, just, and ecologically sustainable manner; it is imperative that your government protect natural ecosystems and end the use of coal.

Indian Forest

As a start, I am writing to request that your government use all its power to support implementing esteemed scientist Madhav Gadgil’s “Western Ghats Experts Ecology Panel Report (WGEEP)”. It is vital for your great nation’s ecological sustainability that the Gadgil report be implemented immediately in Kerala and the Western Ghats, and replicated nationwide, or your nation’s water, food, and climate are at risk of imminent collapse. There can be no economic well-being without healthy ecosystems, which the report sets out methods to identify and sustain.

India’s drive for economic growth is not using already limited natural resources in a sustainable fashion, as ecosystems upon which all your citizen’s depend for basic services are being liquidated. Your nation’s basic water and food systems are stressed to the utmost already. Climate change contributed to by your nation’s rapid expansion of coal, and clearing of natural ecosystems, threatens ecological collapse, and accompanying mass famine and societal disintegration.

To yield to economic pressures to extract coal by sacrificing your nation’s natural forests – which provide a huge range of ecosystem services including regularity of the monsoons, water retention, pollination, and soil production – is hugely shortsighted and can only lead to ecological ruin for your nation and contribute significantly to Earth’s overall demise. Such policy utterly fails to learn from the mistakes of already ecologically collapsing, over-developed nations.

Please don’t confuse short-term development from once off ecosystem destruction with true long-term national advancement. As your country develops and has additional financial resources, it is absolutely essential that you focus upon land-use regulations – including protecting and restoring natural ecosystems – and make major investments in renewable energy as coal is phased out. Efforts to achieve a global agreement of equitable yet universal measures to cut fossil fuel emissions must be implemented with all haste. And of course India and the whole world must stop its population growth and increase equability of consumption.

Unless India takes steps to prevent further diminishment of old-growth and other terrestrial ecosystems – including reinstating the ban upon logging natural forests to mine coal, and abandoning plans to build hundreds of new coal plants – your nation’s fertile land and abundant water are at great risk. If India collapses ecologically, it is certain to create a huge ripple effect across the entire globe. Together the human family must not allow such an outcome to happen.

Please ensure your government supports implementation of the Gadgil report land-use regulations in Kerala, the Western Ghats, and a similar data-driven land-use and ecosystem planning approach nationally. Large connected ecosystems not only sustain tigers and elephants, which are important to India, but their habitat also provides the ecosystem services – including water, soil, and climate – that humans and their economies depend upon.

Clearly the opposition to the Gadgil report is only concerned with vested economic interests and not with the well-being of your great nation and its peoples as a whole. Anything less than protecting and restoring old-growth forests and ending coal means India’s advancement has been illusory and will be followed by collapse into a perilous state of ecosystem failure from which there can be no advancement.

India is an amazing place in so many ways, yet we must learn that with great power, comes great responsibility. There is still hope that India under your leadership will come to understand the importance of a different development model – and learn to protect and cherish your land and your women. The world is watching and expecting your ecological leadership at home and abroad.

Respectfully, with grave concern,

Amareesh Leib

This letter was sent in copy to the relevant various Ministers and Government Departments in Kerala, and to The Times of India

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