Four of the Indian environmental organizations and projects we shall support in 2005 are described below.
1. Bombay Environmental Action Group (“BEAG”)
The group’s popular name is something of a misnomer, as BEAG’s achievements cover locations across the length and breadth of India – including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands! BEAG have been involved in over 600 campaigns since they appeared on India’s environmental centrestage in 1977 by averting a major health and pollution disaster – they stopped the opening of a chemicals factory too close to Mumbai. Since then, BEAG have successfully fought illegal construction in ecologically sensitive areas, opposed demolition of heritage sites, ensured the protection of wildlife, forests, coastal areas and hill stations. BEAG’s focus and activities revolve around public interest litigation to enforce environmental regulation, and lobbying with Government to evolve appropriate policies on Environmental matters. For example, BEAG’s efforts led to the introduction of “Ecologically Sensitive Area” regulation for unique hill stations such as Matheran , Mahabaleshwar, & Panchgani. A petition by BEAG saved one of India’s premier Tiger reserves (Melghat) from substantial derestriction, and another BEAG petition lead to a ban on polluting diesel taxis in Mumbai. BEAG’s valuable database of legal cases and supporting research spanning a quarter century is entirely manual, so BEAG needs funding to digitize its records to make them available on the web for all concerned citizens to use as precedent in the fight for the environment. BEAG has only three senior activists and two juniors, and needs funding to hire more activists and researchers and take on the an expanding array of pressing environmental issues.
2. Green Accounting for Indian States Project – “GAISP”
This project is about calculating, adjusting, and then publishing the “money value” of education, health, and environmental investment which is currently not accounted for at all in our traditional system of GDP accounts. IET’s adoption of this prestigious project will benefit IET’s profile as a world leader in cutting-edge green thinking, and will change radically the way people think about economics and the environment. Environmental degradation will count as debits ( reduction of Natural Capital), and Education and Health improvements will be shown as credits (increase in Human Capital). Well-managed states will show positive savings after adjustments, and bad states will show negative savings. For instance, if a state spends Rs 500,000 to put up a factory producing plasticware on land that was previously forested, traditional accounting systems would show that GDP went up by Rs 500,000 . Green Accounting, on the other hand, would capture the lost value of the forest (a loss of Rs.10 million in terms of protection against floods and droughts, preserving of bio-diversity, health benefits such as clean air, eco-tourism benefits, etc.) and show a net dis-saving of Rs. 9,500,000. GAISP needs to raise funding to cover the costs of two years of effort implementing the research and publication phase of this project, including stipends for environmental economics researchers, rental of office space and equipment, and publication costs.
3. Children and Environment
From 2001 to 2003, BEAG (Bombay Environmental Action Group) acted as the India agent for the Development Education Project (“DEP”) of the University of Manchester, a global project to promote “Sustainability Education in Cities” in the developing world. BEAG appointed two professional instructors in the environmental field to build the project around four Greater Mumbai schools representing all strata of society – from urban elite to suburban poor. Our team taught secondary school teachers to run a range of projects for their classes – from reports on Mumbai’s transportation, water and sanitation problems, to installing vermiculture projects on campus for garbage recycling, to researching and helping at the city’s nearby national park, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. BEAG intends to extend this project, and seeks funding to build a “Sustainable Cities Resource Centre”. BEAG’s team will prepare a proper curriculum, training materials, and provide ongoing guidance to take many more schools along a proven & successful path: project-based education on the ‘sustainable cities’ theme to children in the 12-15 year age group. IET aims to raise money to extend this project to more Indian schools, as DEP funding ended in 2003.
4. Reforestation in a tribal area
Situated not far from Ooty in the Nilgiris, the Edhkwehlynawd Botanical Refuge (“EBR”) is a reforestation project adjacent to an existing Toda tribal settlement and Nature Refuge. EBR will enable these local tribals to grow rare endemic species and benefit economically from harvestinf non-timber forest produce such as herbs and medicinal plants. Organized by Tarun Chhabra, a local botanist, this project is featured in Indian magazines and periodicals which cover botanical research and nature conservation. Finance is needed to buy further land for this project, to purchase a jeep that can travel over difficult terrain, to fence the area from grazing herds, & to de-weed and restore the land proposed to be bought in preparation for further afforestation. IET wishes to support these immediate requirements.