Is it possible to Dissolve the Conflict Between Environmental Laws and Livelihood?

Since time immemorial, human beings are deeply connected with flora and fauna. Living and breathing components of the eco-system are said to be inter-dependent. It was believed that they need each other for survival that is to keep the natural balance of the eco-system unhampered. The ecology has space for both human beings and animals that is it is naturally balanced in such a way that they can co-exist. Therefore, why is it happening now that the Laws to protect one are clashing with the interest of another

The Situation in Sundarbans

Sometimes, it happens that Environmental laws are formulated to maintain the flora and fauna, without taking the locals into account. They are tortured, killed and land is snatched away from them in the name of Conservation Projects, upon which the Environmental Laws stress upon.
Another problem is the man-animal conflict. The Sundarbans is an archipelago in West Bengal, where territories of Men and animals are overlapped at places, therefore locals being killed by tigers and crocodiles are common incidents. Some cases are even not reported. There are no laws which stresses upon good compensatory packages therefore the family of the victim is given a meagre sum of money.

There are other minor but serious problems as well. To reduce fishermen going into waters, a system of issuing of pass have been started which is quite costly for them. The biggest problem is that the areas which locals inhabit are being reduced day by day in the name of Conservation Projects, which the Environmental Laws stress upon. This has led to ruin of the deprived rustic population. This is the reason why often rural poor migrate to cities. Often inhumane treatment meted out to the grass root community on the name of dislocation.

Is Literature taking an active role in dissolving this conflict?

Eco-criticism is the merging of Environmentalism with fiction so as to attract the reader’s attention towards various Environmental problems. Literature would act as an effective weapon to tackle the above problem as well along with creating awareness about common environmental hazards like deforestation, global warming, etc. as we know “Pen is mightier than the Sword”.

When we are talking about Eco criticism in India, reference should be made of few Indian Authors including Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy and Anita Desai. They often raise their voice against serious Environmental issues through their work.
One of the best work which highlights the conflict between Environmental Laws and Livelihood is Amitav Ghosh’s “The Hungry Tide”. raises a multiple question regarding the environmental concern about the Sundarbans, which is one of the suburbs of India. Here, it should be noted that Sundarbans is just used as an example of the hundreds of ecosystems that are under threat. He chains environmentalism with fiction to highlight the problems faced by the animals living in the archipelago which includes the Royal Bengal Tiger as well as the Gangetic dolphins.

The novel talks about “The Morichjhapi massacre”, in which hundreds of refugees are tortured, raped, killed and dislodged in the name of a “Tiger Project”. Though the Author doesn’t expressly reveal, yet it is evident that the author here is talking about the grand eco-tourism project of the Sahara Pariwar. The project includes boat houses and luxury hotels for tourists. Environmental Laws does direct us to encourage Projects to save endangered species but it is often misused by business minded people. They often hide their business plans behind Conservation Projects. This does not just affect the people of that particular locality but also takes a toll on the ecology. Tourism will further add to traffic in the waters and we can see in the novel how dangerous speeding motorboats are to sensitive marine animals like dolphins. All these will further impose a threat on lives of endangered species like the crabs and dolphins.

Often we mistake the conflict between profit-driven projects and local people as the conflict between locals and Environmental Laws. Therefore, even if Literature is not directly contributing in solving this problem still at least the novel points out is that first, we have to understand who the real culprit is.

Is it Possible to Dissolve the Conflict?

First of all, it has to be pointed out that Environmentalism and humanism does not naturally clash against each other as both have their own eco-space. One must identify and deal with the real problems that lead to the clash.

However, it cannot be denied that some problems do exist between Environmental Laws that is laws made to protect the animals and local people, which has already been discussed earlier.

The man-tiger conflict is a common problem as human and animal territory overlap in the delta. There should be transfer of people from the tiger dominated territory to safer regions in the archipelago with sufficient money packages.

Moreover, the soil of the Sundarbans is saline which makes agriculture almost impossible. To sustain their lives, the natives are driven to the forest for fishing, collecting honey, hunting and other activities. Therefore, it is not surprising that almost every week there is news of tiger attack. The problem will be permanently solved if alternative occupation could be provided to them. Tigers invade human dominated region to prey on livestock and people when the jungle fails to suffice for food. This happens as the forest vegetation is getting shrinked day by day due to environmental problems like global warming, human development (e.g. tourism). To solve this problem a “wider prey base” has to be provided. Other steps include making native people and tourists aware of environmental concerns, implementing environment friendly projects after taking consent of the locals, allocating funds for removing poverty and also Non-governmental organisations should work with the natives.

Also, eco-criticism means blending of environmentalism into literature to promote environmental concerns. It will go a long way in creating awareness among youths of India where “culture and environment cannot be separated” if texts like “The Hungry Tide” can be implemented in curriculum.

Author- Dishani Bakshi
Intern at Law Portal

1st Year, MNLU, Nagpur.

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