At a time when leading politicians are expressing concern about food security, the alienation of fertile land proceeds apace. The latest projects in England, the proposed loss of national forests and the building of High Speed Rail 2, are being ardently resisted.
The attempt of Tata to build its car plant in Singur is one of many attempts to build on food-producing land in India. Currently in the news is the Lavasa Lake City project near Pune.
The picture above shows the sort of terrain which will be lost if the strangely nicknamed ‘eco-city’ is completed.
In all the project requires 5,000-plus hectares of land, the clearing or encroaching on forests and the building of weirs to abstract water from the Varasgaon Dam, one of the primary sources of water for Pune city, which already faces acute water shortages in the months before monsoon season.
It is reported that the Environment Ministry submitted a 74-page report to the Bombay High Court on January 18 after filing a petition alleging that the corporation carried out unauthorised construction without securing necessary environmental clearances before starting work. Construction stopped in November.
Lavasa Corporation went to court challenging the stay order, claiming that the project is based on the hill tourism policy of Maharashtra.
Reuters News Agency noted that the order came shortly after Lavasa Corporation was named in a bribes-for-loans corruption scandal in which “Money Matters Financial Services” allegedly offered bribes on behalf of several companies in exchange for large corporate loans.
There was also unease about the speed at which land was acquired and the air of secrecy: “The worksite was guarded like a military project by a private security agency. The company’s top brass was tight-lipped as were state bureaucrats.”
Another disturbing feature reported was the involvement in the early stages of prominent politicians and their relatives, which is thought to have facilitated clearances from the state government, the signing of lease agreements, gaining industrial licences, receiving the official status of a new tourism destination from the Maharashtra government and making agreements to store water and build dams with the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation.
World-wide, corporate vested interests are enlisting political support for their destructive projects.
New Delhi agricultural scientist/writer/activist Devinder Sharma addresses the public in general, following events at the World Economic Forum, asking:
“ Why can’t we build a socio-economic system based on equity and justice, which looks beyond economic growth and GDP?”