India is a vast country with a large population, amazing social diversities, social & economic biases and inequalities. India is a growing consumer economy and will one day have amongst the largest group of consumers in the world. However, the population of India must be seen beyond that of potential consumers for international markets. The Indian population must play an important role in protecting the environment. It is therefore increasingly important that work is done to create environmental awareness with the common people of India towards sustainable development. We need to explore the people, groups and organizations working for environmental issues on the real ground if we are serious about protecting the environment. Exclusive awareness and participatory dialogue programs with the common people is needed that promote decentralized methods of protecting the environment.
However, currently in India there is little public dialogue or community awareness about the local and global issues facing the environment. What is climate change? What are other issues facing the environment? And what are roles people can play to protect the environment? In answering these questions, it is our view that environmental issues cannot be resolved only by funded academic research, or through grants and programs supported by government agencies. Environmental problems need to be resolved by and between individuals, which includes common people, the corporate sector, academics, NGOs and government. All sectors and all individuals need to consider their role in protecting the environment and work together towards a common goal.
In order to begin to work towards sustainable development, we propose a chain of environment conferences. The most important activity of this chain of environment conferences is a dialogue with common people about their environment, its problems and potential solutions. If common people will understand how environmental issues are related to them and their future generations, then they can start to work for the environment sincerely, including advocating to government and private sector to make better policies for the environment that promote its sustainability.
2 THE ACTIVITY
Ground Report India (GRI) was founded as an accountable media platform. The people of GRI go to the ground for their reports. In this process they found that there is a missing gap - most people didn’t understand or were not aware about environmental issues, even though it is one of the most important issues of the world today. GRI has also published special editions on water, agriculture and tribal issues. Through this, GRI found that many common people and local communities are supporting sustainable development and could play larger roles in working to resolve environmental issues.
Based on this work, we have decided to initiate a sincere dialogue and awareness program for the environment in India. We plan to organize a chain of conferences. There are hundreds conferences currently going on across the globe and in India, but they do not touch the common people. This chain of conferences will not be limited to research in academic institutions. If a person, a local community, a voluntary group is doing works or making efforts for the environment on the ground then they will have the opportunity to present and speak at these conferences. Various stratums of the human systems co-related with the environment will also be participate. This includes people in urban and rural areas; the media; lawyers; local administration; research institutes; policy activists; students; local leaders; NGOs; corporate sector; central and state governments including government bureaucrats, political leaders and common leaders.
The environment is not limited to the planting of trees, or building of water bodies. The use of natural resources depends on the community mentality, customs and social behaviours. This chain of conferences will try to understand the solution locally with relation to society as a whole.
With the support of local people, academics, government, private sector, civil society and you, Ground Report India Group will conduct three levels of conferences over two years from July 2012 to October 2014 for mass awareness and public dialogues on environmental issues. This includes:
- 1 international conference
- 5 regional conferences in different states in India
- 200 local conferences in different regions of many states across India
- 1,00,000 kilometres exclusive national tour covering different areas of India
- Talks, quizzes and debates in colleges, institutes and universities
3 THE OBJECTIVES
After the conferences, we hope that people will at least begin to think about their local environmental issues, to know about the global environmental problems and how humans impact upon it. Presently, we see that people don’t understand the important role they can personally play to protect the environment. At the moment, environmental activism in India is elite or is considered an elitist activity in the mind set of many people. People think they cannot do anything to protect the environment. But we hope that the conferences will break this and that people will recognise that protecting the environment can be done by anyone. We also recognise that in a country of such diversity as India, each individual has a different role to play, no matter which layer of society they are in and what assets they may or may not have. We also believe that environmental protection and sustainable development can have many positive impacts for people’s livelihoods and well-being. We start from the point that rather than looking only at the government to provide the answers, we also need to start how as a society we can collectively work together to resolve environmental issues.
Overall, through this activity we hope to:
- Change people’s behaviour in their daily lives to have more consideration for their individual impact on the environment, as well as those in their locality. At each local and regional conference we will facilitate discussion on major environmental topics related to the local area. This could include, for example, water quality issues, energy security, waste management and air pollution.
- Catalyse a people’s movement to advocate and work for the environment. At each local and regional conference, leaders will be identified who are passionate to continue working for environmental issues in their locality. At the international conference, organised in the year 2014, these leaders will come together to share experiences, learn from each other, and unite with others nationally and internationally.
- Popularise environmental issues/education and catalyse environmental advocacy in India. Environmental movements are strong in western countries, for example through Al Gore’s campaign. But because of India’s poverty, population, diversity and complexity, a different awareness is needed, that allows people to improve their livelihood and well-being while also protecting their natural resources.
- Record and summarise the outcomes of each conference. We acknowledge that across such an amazing country like India, not all environmental issues will be the same. Different pressures exist for different resources. For example, water is too much in some places, and less in others. Mining is common in some states, while issues related to urbanisation is more relevant in some towns and cities. We aim to present findings from each local and regional conference at the international conference. We plan to channel the questions that come up at the conferences, then synthesise to achieve some key points that can be easily communicated.
- Invite all layers of society to discuss and debate about environmental issues in local/regional conferences. We want to see all sectors engaged in working for the environment. To encourage people to attend the conferences, the organisers will run smaller forums prior to the local/regional conferences will target specific groups of people and leaders in sectors including government, academia, education, spiritual/religious leaders, activists, lawyers and students. At the international conference, we hope that the leaders from each sector in the local/regional conferences will attend at the international conference.
We will work to support people, in whatever position they are in, to do as they can – we will work with them on issues that will be relevant to them and their ability.
4 THE METHOD
4.1 LOCAL CONFERENCES
195 local conferences on environmental issues relevant to the locality will be undertaken. Each local conference will be a one day dialogue with local people from schools, universities, other institutes, villages nearby, suburban areas of the township of a particular area. The expected gathering for each local conference will be around 200-1,000 people.
The tour team will spend a few days in an area, covering many villages and townships, before the local conference. We will meet local youth, local public representatives, farmers, students, voluntary organisations, school teachers and government officials. This will be supported by the network of Ground Report India and partner organisations already have on the ground. From this activity, we aim to find interested and influential people who want to work for, or are already working for, environmental issues. We will explore with them how many conferences could happen or are needed in the locality. The local people will decide the day and venue and then we will all sit together. The venue will be decided by the local communities after the local tour.
We will talk with them about their local environmental issues (smaller scale) and try to explore ways that they could further resolve environmental issues locally (large scale issues). The local conferences will cover the issues related to water, agriculture, energy, consumerism, community health and education. The local conferences will be up to 10 to 50 villages. It will be important to talk with people about issues relevant to them, and also to balance with their economic development and livelihoods.
Through the local conferences, we will document what are their environmental issues. Considering the scale and number of local conferences, we anticipate a large number of environmental issues being highlighted. These important issues will be distilled and become the starting discussion point at the regional conferences and ultimately the international conference, where experts will also attend to meet and discuss with local leaders.
4.2 REGIONAL CONFERENCES
The ten two-day regional conferences will start in 2014 after organizing the local conferences. Each regional conference will be a two day dialogue with an expected gathering of around 1000-5000 people.
The tour team will spend around 40-130 days in a region of various states covering hundreds of villages and townships. The venues will be decided by the communities after the first round of the dialogue with the voluntary and social organisations. The regional conferences will be held in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland and Kerala. Each regional conference will try to cover a few states. Interested and influential people will be invited to the regional conference, and many of them will be found from the local conferences. Academic institutes will also be invited. The regional conferences will reach policy makers. Documentation and follow-up to each conference will ensure that the discussions and conclusions are bought to the attention of policy makers and others.
The regional conferences will begin to consider ideas to support local communities to protect their environment and will cover similar issues as the local conferences including, water, agriculture, forestation, waste management and pollution. At the regional conference, discussion of the environmental issues highlighted at the local conferences will be discussed and the most important issues and how collectively the local issues could be resolved. Also, because the regional conferences will cover a greater geographic area, environmental issues will still be locally relevant, but also encompass environmental issues that are present at a larger scale and could be tackled collectively at a this scale.
4.3 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
A four-day international conference on the environment and climate change will take place in 2015. Experts from many countries will meet with national leaders in India over four days. This conference will occur at the end of the chain of conferences, thereby bringing all the lessons and stories learnt from the local and regional conferences, in addition to the national tour, to a culmination point at the international conference. The expected gathering will be around 5,000-15000 people. The international conference will cover the following issues: climate change; conservation; water reservoirs; energy; environment degradation; farming and agriculture; land degradation and use; waste management; health; resource depletion; water pollution; air pollution; industrial pollution; food pollution; population; consumerism. All the environmental issues from the local and regional conferences will be brought to this conference and discussed. The role of each sector and each community will be discussed to see how each can assist the other.
The two main aims of the international conference are to:
- Link the network of people working in the environment, with the hope that it could join India’s local environmental leaders with international campaigns/movements for environmental and climate change. At the international conference, the ground environmental leaders and genuine interested people will be introduced to the international community – that is people who are really interested in environmental issues and have been working for it. Because the Indian population is very large thus it could play a larger role in global environmental movements. The international conference will provide an opportunity to explore how this could be done. The local conferences, regional conferences and 100,000 kilometres exclusive national tour will build a ground network in thousands of villages, sub-urban and urban areas for the international environment movements.
- Discuss the recorded documentation of environmental problems and issues from the local and regional conferences. Through this activity we hope that participants will begin to see the important role of each individual and organisation in working to assist local communities across the nation to solve the identified environmental issues.
4.4 THE TOUR
To make this chain of conferences worthwhile and down to earth, which means that it will cover various stratums of the human made systems with the best involvement of common people, we will conduct a 100,000 km national tour and talks, quizzes and debates in thousands of colleges, institutes and universities consecutively as the conferences. Through the national tour, talks, quizzes, debates and local conferences, we will connect with the common people. Through connecting with local people during the national tour, we will hold the local, regional and international conferences. The local conferences will be organic – they will occur as the local people suggest.
A 100,000 kilometres national tour will be done for participatory dialogues covering thousands of villages, townships and metro-cities in next around two years. The tour will be in two parts, whereby 50,000 kms will be an exclusive national tour covering all over India, and the second 50,000 kms will be the chain of various local and regional tours supporting local and regional conferences.
4.5 Talks, quizzes and debates in colleges, institutes and universities:
Talks, quizzes and debates based on environment issues in thousands of colleges, institutes and universities will be organized on the national tour. Awards, lucky draws and certificates will be given to the students at local level and at international conference.
The International Advisory Board:
Credits for the concept note:
- Vivek Umrao Glendenning "Nomad's Hermitage"
- Prof. Willem Vervoort, PhD, University of Sydney, Australia
- John Szemerey, Belgium
- Dr Madeleine Florin, PhD, Wageningen University, Netherlands
- Dr Madan Thangavelu, PhD, University of Cambridge, U.K.
- Dr B. K. Sharma, U.K.
- Shankar Sharma, India