WTO meeting matters a lot to you | HT Tech

WTO meeting matters a lot to you

If the developed world succeeds in imposing its will, poor farmers in India cannot tend their crops in a sustainable manner.

| Updated on: Oct 24 2006, 18:42 IST

Last week witnessed two global meetings that would determine environmental issues for India at the local level. The World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting is underway at Cancun in Mexico, where the Indian side has managed to form a coalition of developing countries. This coalition is important because developing countries are being forced into positions that make them more vulnerable in areas, such as agriculture, by the developed world.

If the developed world succeeds in imposing its will, poor farmers in India cannot tend their crops in a sustainable manner. Instead, they would be forced to over-exploit their fields with chemicals and poor practices to obtain maximum yields for which they get less returns, thanks to the skewed protection and subsidies the US and the European Union have provided for their own agricultural sector.

This is a far cry from the environmental ideal of bio-diversity protection and safe food. As a trade organisation, the WTO will always push for more trade and consumption. But in the real world, it is better to consume only what you actually need to. This is a fundamental principle of environmental thinking, but alien to the WTO framework.

Shell fooling the world

The World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa is also underway, where over 100 participants are representing India. One of the topics on the agenda is the relationship between communities and protected areas - an issue India must also deal with. Kalpavriksh, a Pune- and Delhi-based NGO, is coordinating discussions on this issue on behalf of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Land exploitation is one reason why people are displaced from their lands. There is a sad story of Ken Saro Wiwa, who fought against oil giant Shell when it tried to take over the lands from the Ogoni tribe in Nigeria. Saro Wiwa was executed, lands polluted and Shell played a murky role in the whole episode.

Ironically, Shell appears to be a big winner from this conference. This is because it has tied up with a few green groups and funded the Energy and Biodiversity Initiative that suggests that biodiversity values and oil and gas development go hand in hand.

The subtext: when oil is available in a protected area, Shell will take more care. The entire exercise is being widely opposed and labelled as a greenwash.

Thai show glass works

Let's move on to water. In many parts of the world, the rich buy water bottled in PET plastic. In contrast, the Thai use strong glass containers to bottle water, which reduces the problem of toxins polluting the water and eliminates plastic waste. Clearly, glass a good substitute to plastic. Will India take a leaf out of the Thai book?

(If you feel for Planet Earth, write to earthwatch1@hindustantimes.com)

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First Published Date: 25 Sep, 19:17 IST