The Indian prime minister pledged $50 million to protect the world's plant and animal life at the UN convention on biodiversity Tuesday, in a move intended to push the world's more developed countries to put up or shut up.
India's track record on the environment is dismal, as activists told the Hindustan Times. But the PM's move, like an earlier shift away from stonewalling on emissions limits, should shame the world's rich countries into shelling out as well.
"Listening to his assertions regarding India's commitment to conservation and livelihoods, one would think the country is in the right hands. Nothing can be farther from the truth," the paper quoted Ashish Kothari, founder of NGO Kalpvariksh, as saying.
As GlobalPost noted in February, Indian environmentalists have slammed the country's environmental protection regime as farcical, even as the PM and others among the business lobby have repeatedly blamed the supposedly slow pace of green clearances for holding back industrial projects.
According to the Center for Science and Environment, a greater number of projects were approved in the past five years than the number projected by the national Planning Commission for the upcoming 11th and 12th Five Year Plans.
Between 2007 and 2011, for instance, 361 non-coal mining projects were cleared during the supposed drought, and the country's iron and steel capacity doubled.
Respect for biodiversity is also a joke, considering the way environmental impact assessments have been conducted for huge projects, such as a series of more than 150 dams slated for construction in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh (See Dam Nation: the threat to the environment)
Between 2005 and 2009, the Arunachal Pradesh state government took in around $200 million in fees and so-called upfront payments for allotting dam projects to developers, according to the state Department of Hydro Power Development. In two of those years, receipts for upfront payments amounted to 10 percent of the state's entire budget for expenditures on public programs.