Swaminathan: greed driving destruction of India’s environment

By Ed King

The father of India’s ‘green revolution’ says a combination of poverty and greed are steadily destroying his country’s landscape.

Speaking at the UN biodiversity talks, M.S. Swaminathan, who is credited for India’s record agricultural yields from the 1970s onwards, told RTCC he fears a “greed revolution” has now taken hold.

The geneticist and politician said the exploitation of forests was a particular concern for him, and argued that unregulated development in India would send the country sliding backwards.

“The need of the poor or the greed of the rich have ravaged the forests,” he said. “There are genuine needs of the poor, but forests are also places rich in minerals – iron and manganese, so I would say there is a greed revolution in the world which has led to the devastation of forests.”

Deforestation in India increased in 2011 according to a report published earlier this year. An extra 367 square km were lost – leaving just under 24% of the country covered by forests. In 2009 the Ministry of Environment estimated its forests stored 6,662 million tonnes of carbon.

What price development?

A strong lobby within government regard these figures as secondary to development. India’s economic growth has dipped in the past year, and these groups have called on the government to implement radical reforms and cut red tape.

The fossil fuel industry have been particularly vocal, complaining that huge coal stocks remain untouched because of antiquated laws that protect forests and tribal areas.

Swaminathan vehemently disagrees with this analysis, arguing that this disregards the value of forests and other services they provide.

“The controversy between environment and development is a very spurious one,” he said. “It only applies to the very greedy rich people – not to the poor.

He added: “We must have a strong commitment from the political leadership, the scientific know-how and political do-how and people’s participation. All three are important.

“What has been shown now is that many of these wrong acts like destroying the environment have also been associated with greed and making money – what we call scams.

“I am confident that those who try to destroy – well – there’s a saying: God forgive them, they know not what they do…my saying is God do not forgive them for they know what they do.”

FULL INTERVIEW: M.S. Swaminathan talks to RTCC about greed, exploitation and his fears for India’s forests

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