India has most environment conflict cases
In a list of 11 countries India leads in environmental conflicts and is followed by Colombia and Nigeria
There is thrust towards industrialisation in India coupled with lax environmental governance
Conflicts over water account for most cases with industrial units appropriating water sources
EJAtlas.org is conceived by the Environmental Justice, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT) project and funded by the European Commission as a global research project operated during 2011–2015. It maps ecological conflicts, resistances and environmental injustices, mostly in the developing world.
India recorded the greatest concentration of such conflicts, according to an article published in Current Science last month (December 2015), showing the top 11 countries with respect to the number of cases reported to the EJAtlas database.
While India has 200-plus cases, Colombia has 101 and Nigeria 71 cases. The atlas is a work in progress and aims to map 2,500 environmental conflict cases by the end of 2017.
According to V. V. Krishna, EJOLT project director and professor at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy (CSSP), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, one reason for India recording the maximum number of conflicts is the thrust on industrialisation, mining for natural resources and industrial units exploiting loopholes in environmental governance. “India also has a large number of civil society groups which have been active since the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy,” Krishna tells SciDev.Net.
Conflicts related to the ‘water management’ category appear highest with 59 cases, followed by conflicts in fossil fuels and climate justice category with 47 cases and the industrial and utilities conflicts category with 36 cases.
Explaining the observation, Krishna said water is important and India is known for bad management of water resources. "This leads to shortage, leading to conflicts. There is also the appropriation of water sources and channels by industrial units with political nexus," he said.
Anup Kumar Das, researcher at CSSP, JNU and an author of the Current Science article includes cases related to infrastructure and built environment, waste management, nuclear, biomass and land conflicts, tourism recreation and biodiversity conservation conflicts in the categories.
Joan Martinez-Alier, professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain and member of the EJOLT co-ordinating team says the EJAtlas exhibits 1671 conflicts currently, of which 223 are from India. "India appears at the top in the EJAtlas but India is still under-reported — this is the largest country in the world in terms of population, and very likely in terms of environmental conflicts."
"If there is a fit between knowledge generation and decision making, it helps,” says Krishna. “In India there is a very weak or no link between these two domains of policy making.”
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South Asia desk.