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The online edition of 'PAATOM' Magazine founded by MN Vijayan -

In the Context of diffusion of imperialist machinery into the Indian Communist movements PAATOM raises indignant resistance against the hell of ideology and praxis vitiated by the pseudo Marxist goons of imperium.

'PAATOM' is a resistance from the deepest of the racial sanctity of humanity nursed by the leftist political ethos. "PAATOM" is the voice of honest determination, that means to uncover the treacherous objects concealed beneath the mystery of hegemonic jargon.

We offer a laborious contribution to the truly humanist interventions that would enlarge the circumference and depth of emotional and intellectual perceptions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

All is not green here !

The Valley that never was silent

This year is marked by United Nations as the year for Biodiversity conservation. And it is the right time to retrospect into the undercurrents of the Silent Valley movement which is one of the most-heard efforts that took place in India to conserve the diverse natural resources. 

The site of struggle
Silent Valley was never silent. The 830 hectare long tropical rain forest carries the legendary myths of Mahabharata in its streams. The legend goes like this. Known otherwise as ‘Sairandhri’, Silent Valley was the area visited by the Pandavas in exile. It was a solace for their woeful heart. They bathed in the river that bubbled through this lush green forest. In memory of their mother’s absence, they named this river as ‘Kuntipuzha’. ‘Kunti’ was their mother and ‘Puzha’ is the Malayalam word for river. This valley is located in the area of Nilgiri hills in Palakkad District in Kerala.

Robert Bright, a British botanist was behind this landmark exploration that unveiled the Silent Valley. Once in the not-so-distant past he ventured into the area. He discovered an uninhabited, barely penetrable forest, where after nightfall there was silence- unlike other forests, the Cicadas comforting call could not be heard here after dusk. Thus Sairandhri, the unpronounceable was rechristened as Silent Valley. 

Thereafter British government proposed building a dam on the Kunti River and to create a reservoir in the Silent valley. The dam which would be 130 Metres high would be built between two hillocks in a natural gorge through which the river runs. That however was dropped by the British. In Independent India the Kerala Electricity Board (KSEB) had started work on it in 1973, but shortage of funds delayed things till 1976. The time when the government decided to resume the hydro electric project coincided with the period when international NGOs began concentrating on the developmental discourses in third world nation states.  

Manufacturing a Movement
In the work ‘Third Force: the rise of transnational civil society, Ann Florini proclaims that civil society opposition to big dam building in India was mounted during the 1970s and 1980s. She writes: “The campaign against the Silent Valley hydroelectric project in Kerala, one of the first to eventually draw support from the international NGOs, was a harbinger of trends to come. Grass root mobilization against the project emerged in 1976 when a group of local teachers began assisting villagers who feared the loss of their livelihoods from the destruction of forest resources. At the same time, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature began to highlight internationally the project’s negative environmental consequences on the pristine Silent Valley Forests and the endangered lion-tailed monkey. The Silent Valley campaign grew in size and strength over the subsequent decade. Domestic and foreign critics and opponents wrote letters, staged protests, lobbied officials and filed court cases to halt the project. During the same time, environmental issues increased in prominence domestically in India and internationally in the aftermath of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. As a result of the sustained opposition, the silent valley project was halted in 1984.” The government eventually abandoned the project in 1983 and declared Silent Valley as a national park in 1984.

UN Chronicle mentions the same conference as the first earth summit: “Held in Stockholm, Sweden from 5 to 16 June 1972, the UN Scientific Conference, also known as the First Earth Summit, adopted a declaration that set out principles for the preservation and enhancement of the human environment, and an action plan containing recommendations for international environmental action.”

This new paradigm thus became a devise for international NGOs to intrude into the non-political society (Otherwise known as civil society) in India. In their discourses, environment was conceived as something to be conserved and development was a sustainable practice. This notion confronted the Industrial planning envisaged by Socialist and decolonized states around the world. 

Revisiting the Environmental Paradigm
Environment is not a monolithic entity to be conserved. It is a dynamic form comprising of natural habitat, human habitat, inhabitation formed by the interaction of man and nature and finally the ideology. Natural habitat cannot be left untouched by human beings in their life process. It will be modified and becomes human habitat. The further social development by human society in a given human habitat will become an inhabitation. 
Decolonized governments in India and elsewhere were formed by capitalists and hence followed the Industrialization without heeding to the genuine concerns of displaced local people. This apolitical space was utilized by NGOs to promote the ideology of eco-conservation. In disguise this was an attempt to sabotage the Industrial initiatives in third world.

Why NGOs want to stall big dams? It is precisely because they are funded by donor agencies promoting the interests of US Imperialism. A market economy like US can thrive only when production of goods elsewhere is stopped or frozen. For seamless production across a nation, a reliable energy source is indispensable. And water is the most eco-friendly source of large energy potential with least amount of pollution and least chances of environmental and man made disasters. 

NGO ideology is against big dams because only such meta-narratives can induce a national production harnessing electricity. Water achieves its sublime utilization potential when it is converted to electricity, which is nothing but a matter to energy conversion. A big dam is not only a generator of energy but an integrator for a nation of diverse cultures. It can integrate various productive sectors through irrigation and electricity. We know that Aswan dam in Egypt became the site of a national identity. Thus big dams are the inhabitation that humans can create in a country or state having rivers and large coastlines. Thus big dams suits India, especially Kerala where we are bestowed with aplenty of rivers. 

Similarly, biodiversity is not a quality of nature devoid of human intervention. By human labour, nature becomes more diverse and agriculture is the most advanced form of biodiversity where a second productive nature is created on the fertile earth using maximum potential of soil and ground water. Keeping natural habitat untouched by indigenous population is always in the interest of the foreign market. 

NGOs shed tears for the trees cut, ignoring the plight of millions of Indians with dry throat and empty stomach. Dollars were funnelled to their intestines. The NGOs ravaging against the use of Kunti River for irrigation are muted when it comes to the consumption of bottled water in a land of 44 rivers.  Reading through the subsequent periods, we can see that the NGO ideology was a prelude to the civil society organizations that promoted Religious extremism, Dalitism, Feminism, Gay-lesbian rights and Naxalism. These ideologies were taken as the surrogates to intrude into nation states with the agenda of the imperium to fragment the nation states. 

Thus Silent Valley is an evergreen victim to the Imperial agenda to freeze the industrial and agricultural initiatives with a national perspective. And Environmental NGOs have replaced the national perspective with the localization agenda which is the product of globalization itself. This ideology continue to ripe more sites of fissure in Indian state through purchasing more and more marginalized lives using foreign funds and donor agencies.

Gokul B.Alex