Mr.Rajiv Gandhi's Statement at UNGA on 19th Oct.1987
The Miracles of modern science and the towering achievments of
technology have given us a
measure of mastery over nature. Economic progress has, however,
engendered a callous
disregard of the harmony within the ecological system. Therefore, we
have to consciously
remind ourselves; we are a part of nature; we are not apart from nature.
We are a strand in the
single fabric whose warp and weft link toether all that is of the earth
and the water, the air and
We have learned to our cost that development which destroys the
destroys development itself. We have learned to our benefit that
development that conserves
the environment conserves also the fruits of development. there is thus
dichotomy between conservation and growth.
Yet striking the right balance between the environmental imperative and
the demands of
development is not that simple. Conservatrion imposes an escalation in
costs. When resources
are limited, the increased cost of any one project necessarily means
less investment for others.
This appears to imply a curtailment of economic growth. When the
environment is not
protected, damage to the environment will extract its own price - from
those living in the
vicinity, from others at a distance, or even from a coming generation.
We do not know enough about the impact on the environment of
developmental decisions. We
also do not know enough about howbest to offset damage to the
environment. There are no
easy solutions. Yet we cannot ignore environmental considerations. we
have to strive for the
optium mix through increased knowledge and increased awareness.
In India, we are seeing a growing awareness of the symbiotic
relationship between the
protection of the environment and sustainable development. there is the
movement in the Himalayas, where women preent the wanton felling of
trees by throwing
themselves protectively around tree-trunks. Island communities join
hands to stop the
coral-mining which destroys their lagoons. Villagers band together to
stop goats from grazing
on the bramble planted to halt the advance of the desert. Environmental
groups are active. In
our parilaiment members are increasingly receptive to environmental
concerns. they are
beginning to demand that the conservation of the environment be
guaranteed before major
development projects are undertaken.
At one time, environmental issues related mainly to the quality of life
of the affluent. Today, in
developing countries like ours, we are primarily concerned with the
lives of the poorest.
When village ponds and wells go dry, it is the poor who trek to
ever-more distant sources for
water. When forests are destroyed, it is the poor who go farther and
farther afield in the search
of fuel wood. As lands are degraded and forests recede, it is the poor
and their animals who,
in the dry season, trudge hundreds of kilometers in search of grazing
lands. It is the livelihood
of the poor, and their hopes, the shrivel in the arid anguish of drought
and are drowned in the
raging fury of floods.
It is also the poor who suffer most from pollution. When water-borne
epidemics strike the
urban slums, it is the poor who are afflicted by disease and even death.
When factories spew
harmful gases into the air, it is the workers in the nearby housing
colonies who suffer the
contagion. When industrial units discharge their effluent into rivers,
it is the poor fisher folk
who are deprived of their incomes.
Although they bear the brunt of environmental damage, the poor are
responsible for any of that damage. For centuries, they have lived in
harmony with nature. The
problem is caused by large-scale commercial exploitation, which garners
the profits but
escapes the environment, the burden falls of those who have gained the
least and suffered the
most. The people of the forest cannot suddenly be cordoned off from its
bounty. Fuel and
building materials must be made readily available, at prices they can
afford. Shepherds and
cowherds must be found alternative pastures or provided fodder. To be
must be humane. That is the challenge beore us.
A large number of animal and plant species are seriously threatened.
Apart from the ethical
and aesthetic case for protecting these disappearing species, it is
possible that answers to
unsolved problems of health and survival might be found in the yet
undiscovered secrets of
these gene pool reserves.
We in India are now developing mechanisms to control pollution and check
of the environment. We assess the environmental impact of development
work so as to
harmonize development with the environment. We carry out research and
take the results out to
the field. We promote environmental awareness among the people. we hope
this will lead to
greater vision, concern and care in the planning, designing and
implementation of development
projects. We learn as we go along.
We are trying to integrate these complex environmental issues into our
design of development.
There are no easy or ready-made answers. In principle we could wish to
give equal priority to
development and conservation. In practice there are many gaps in
intangibles and unknown quantities. Experts disagree and assessments
Conservation is not a national task alone. Even as peace is indivisible,
so is the world
environment. The one world which Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of so often in
this very forum is a
world which exists in the physical laws governing the environment. The
everywhere is jeopardized by the noxious fumes and the life-killing
wastes of industrial
pollution. The poisoning of the rivers and seas deprives and endangers
all of us all over the
world. The accumulation of carbon dixoide in the atmosphere and the
threat to the ozone layer
put the innocent as much at risk as the polluters themselves.
Worst of all is the passing on of pollution and environmental hazards
beyond one's boundaries.
there is no political boundary which delimits the spread of poisonous
gases, no line on a map
which radiation cannot cross, no national frontier at which effluents
can be turned back. All
those affected by such transnational consequences of environmental
damage must have an
equal say in the resolution of problems. We must also keep the global
commons and space free
of environmental degradation. The conservation of the earth's
environment has to be ensured
through democratic discussions and decisions in international forums. It
concerted international action to reduce disparities between countries.
The compulsions of
development and limitations of financial resources tempt many developing
countries to exploit
their natural resources beyond endurance, ignoring environmental
safeguards. If the world
economy is to move to more sustainable paths of development, the crucial
requirement is to
widen the option available to developing countries for growth.
A world economic system which denies itself the benefits of
interdependence is both unjust
and inefficient. Growth in the developing countries is being hampered by
deteriorating real terms of trade, the unfavourable conditions for the
transfer of technology and
the curtailment of the flow of development assistance.
Programmes of conservaton must therefore be addressed to inequities in
economic order. For example, the lion's share of the world's natural
resources has been
pre-empted by a few countries. The average citizen of the industralized
countries consumes 10
times more fossil fuels and minerals than the average citizen of the
developing world. The
world's resources just cannot sustain such profligate consumption of
energy and materials.
The developing countries cannot be denied the right to develop; nor are
the world's natural
resources sufficient for all to follow the greedy path to growth. What,
then, is the answer to the
conundrum? The answer lies in more rational patterns of consumption,
utilization of depletable resources by the developed countries and more
equitable access to
those resources for the developing.
The international community must also address itself to safety measures
in high-risk industries.
Bhopal, Seveso and Chernobyl have shown how vulnerable we are. It is
incumbent on the
management of such industries to ensure the utmost vigilance in design,
maintenance. Valuable lives must not be lost to inefficiency,
indifference, negligence, or
All other environmental dangers pale in comparison to the ever
accumulatiny stockpiles of
nuclear weapons. We must remove the threat of a thermonclear war's
wiping out, in a wink of
history, life as we know it from our common planet. All nuclear weapons
must be dismantled.
The report "our common future" is both a document of high
technical excellence and a call to
concerted political action. The report reminds us that "the earth
is one, but the world is not".
We must recognize that, even as development which degrades the
self-defeating, so do impediments to development endanger the
environment. We must also
recognize that environmental issues are closely linked to the larger
issues of peaceful
coxistence and international co-operation, disarmament and development.
perspective on the environment would be gravely misplaced. The
environment is an
international issue, to be placed in the context of international
co-operation, to be pursued
through international institutions, to be linked to all aspects of
Conservation is each nation's task, but it is a task which can be
accomplished only in the
setting of a co-operative world order.
In one of his most famous slokas, Guru Nanak Dev, the found of the Sikh
"Air is the vital force,
Water the Progenitor;
The vast Earth is Mother of All"
The Verse sums up the Indian tradition of respect for nature, respect
for all that gives us life,
respect for the sources of our well-being on earth. In our tradition
there is no arrogance
towards nature, no desire to dominate it. Our ancient wisom teaches us
to seek harmony with
all creation. All creation is interdependent.
The core of the Brundtlant report is recognition of that
interdependence. Everything in our
experience, from the centuries-old teaching of our seers to our
contemporary experiments in
development, endorses the essence of the mesage given by us by Prime
Minister Gro Harlem
Brundtland and her colleagues. We thank them in all sincerity for their
deep insights and sage
I should like also to express my appreciation to the Secretary-General
for his constructive role
in focusing the attention of the international community on this vital
The report of the Commission is the culmination of an important phase of
the task. The
international community will have to carry forward that task. As
experience grows and
lacunae in knowledge are filled, answers will solwly be found to the
complex questions of
development and the environment. The search for the right answers must
go on relentlessly. It
is a world-wide endeavour to which India pledges unstinting support.
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