about 3 months ago
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It is always a tough call – environment or development. This face-off between the two essentials is only increasing in frequency and the protests on both sides is getting louder by the day.

Most of us who have planted a tree or even taken care of a potted plant know the effort it takes and the pleasure it brings when green shoots start showing. So to read that 2 lakh lush trees will be cut down in Madhya Pradesh’s Buxwaha forest really shakes one to the core. 2 lakh trees are to be felled for what? Something as innate as diamonds. Trees v/s diamonds? There is simply no comparison.

This diamond project is owned by Aditya Birla Group’s Essel Mining & Industries Ltd (EMIL), spread across an area of 364 hectares in the Buxwaha forests and is said to have a reserve of 34 million carats of rough diamonds. This is 175 kms away from NMDC’s existing diamond mine. EMIL, which acquired this land in 2019, plans to spend Rs2500 crore on the project and once operational, will become one of the largest diamond mines in the Asian region. EMIL hopes to get the mining lease by the end of current fiscal.

Apart from cutting down precious 2 lakh trees, the coming up of the project will lead to major water shortage – the area is already water distressed. Thankfully, the project is facing immense pressure from environmentalists and responsible citizens. And the protests are not new – the same project, in 2006 was in news when the Madhya Pradesh government granted a prospecting licence to Rio Tinto Exploration India Private Limited (RTEIPL), an Australian mining giant, to explore diamond mining in the Buxwaha region. The stiff opposition forced Rio Tinto to quit. But many say that they also quit because diamond supply from Russia and Africa is on the rise, putting pressure on the price and Rio calculated that it was simply not worth going through it.

India is constantly fighting – environment or development and the human need to survive is so much that, most of the times, it is development alone which wins. Environment clearance is simply become a rubber stamp.

And then we talk big about renewable energy and electric cars. Why this two-face? Yes, there is a need to support human development but it cannot always come at such a huge price. We all are already suffering the consequences of this mindless growth, this race to become the ‘fastest growing economy in the world.’

Some projects are required and it unfortunately does take a toll on the environment. But such a huge damage for diamonds? Isn’t this also akin to “blood diamond?” Diamonds are forever but this earth is not..

Maybe we can take a few lessons from our small neighbour Bhutan – the greenest country in the world - the only country in the world that is carbon negative, which means it produces more oxygen than it consumes. As mandated in its constitution, Bhutan preserves (at all times) 60% of its land under forest cover. ... More than 51% of the country is protected—the largest percentage of any Asian country.

Sadly, development in India is never about the environment or the people. Its always and always only about power.

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