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Environmental crimes threaten global security, says UN
As hundreds of environment ministers assemble at Nairobi for the first United Nations
Environment Assembly (UNEA), the UN has warned that high profits and low probability of
being caught is fuelling environmental crimes, which now threatens the security and
sustainable development of many nations.
Monetary value of these crimes, right from illegal logging, poaching, fisheries and mining to
dumping of toxic waste, is between US $70 billion and US $213 billion a year, said the
UNEP and Interpol in their report, The Environmental Crime Crisis. By comparison, the
world’s rich countries disburse about US $135 billion a year as global Overseas Development
Assistance. The report, which UNEP calls a rapid response assessment to provide some of the
latest data, analysis and insights into environmental crimes, was released on Tuesday during
the five-day event that will end on June 27.
According to the report, illegal logging and other illegal forestry trade have an estimated
worth of US$30 to US$100 billion annually. This is 10 to 30 per cent of the total global
timber trade. It is found that as much as 90 per cent of the wood in some individual tropical
countries is suspected to come from illegal sources or has been logged illegally. Traders are
able to smuggle the illegal timber by setting up networks of shell companies and legal
plantations to supply pulp for the paper industry. An estimated 62 to 86 per cent of all
suspected illegal tropical wood enters the EU and US in the form of paper, pulp or wood
Illegal trade in fauna and flora (excluding fisheries and timber) is worth US$7 to US$23
billion dollars annually, says the report, which highlights poaching across many species,
including tigers, elephants, great apes, Saiga antelopes and rhinos.

Almost two dozen militant organisations are active in the region. Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh. the report notes. proliferating arms and impacting security. and rhino in the park to raise organisational operating funds. The horns are traded for weapons and cash to fund militant activities. double the number killed the previous year. which is home to 75 per cent of the world’s remaining great one-horned rhinoceroses. and Islamist terrorists poach within the Kaziranga national park and adjacent protected areas of Orang and Pabitora. rebels. including tribal separatists. says the report. Another such illegal trade involves . Bangladeshi terror groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.Poaching of rhinos fund militants in India In Assam. including terrorist organisations. elephants. The groups have been claimed to have links with criminal syndicates in Nepal. Most were reportedly killed by AK-47s and .303 rifles used by militant groups. Crimes related to wildlife and forest play a major role in financing organised crimes and nonstate armed groups. a multitude of armed groups. Thailand and China. and creating opportunities for the penetration of transnational organized crime. reportedly poach tigers. At least 41 rhinos were poached in Kaziranga in 2013.

strengthening institutional. “Transnational criminal organisations are making immense profits by exploiting our natural resources to fuel their illicit activities. “Beyond immediate environmental impacts. It is ironic that Indira Gandhi's actions in this respect . Chad and Niger. good governance and the rule of law are all being threatened. the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues just to fill the pockets of criminals." said Interpol’s Executive Director of Police Services.” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. legal and regulatory systems to further combat corruption and ensure that the legal trade is monitored and managed effectively. over the past two decades the higher judiciary has carved out a great deal of independence for itself in the matter of appointments through the self-referential collegium that appoints new Supreme Court judges. as significant sums of money are flowing to militias and terrorist groups. Given the estimated elephant populations and the number of projected killed elephants within striking range of these militia groups. “Sustainable development. livelihoods. it will require a dedicated and concerted international effort among law enforcement and partner organizations to effectively combat this threat to global security. Partly as a response to the problems of the 1970s. Jean-Michel Louboutin.” The report has issued 12 recommendations to curb environmental crimes. which provides income to militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In withholding its consent to the appointment of prominent lawyer and former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court. Politicising appointments Recent government action is a jolt to the system On the 40th anniversary of the Emergency .ivory. the government has once again raised worries that the executive may be preferring a "committed" judiciary. These call for coordinated efforts to strengthen environmental legislation and regulations.a period that saw the tragic politicisation of the judiciary . "While there is growing awareness of the dangers posed by wildlife crime. the Central African Republic and “horse gangs” in Sudan. So it is particularly unfortunate that the government has chosen to remind the judiciary and other observers of the dangers of executive control at just the moment when a consensus in favour of alternative methods of judicial appointments was building up. the annual income from ivory to militias in the sub-Saharan is up to US$12. threatening the stability and future development of some of the world's poorest regions. and alleviate poverty.the supersession of as many as three judges of the Supreme Court were loudly criticised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in particular.a set of ghosts has been entirely unnecessarily let loose. . identifying end-user markets and implementing consumer awareness campaigns.2 million." he added.

Art for the sake of urbanscape In India’s capital cities there is not even a single landmark development. It would be deeply unfortunate if this underlay the decision to object to the Supreme Court's desire to raise Mr Subramanium to the bench. If so. either as a monument or a precinct. This was revealed through media reports of unknown provenance. But the issues raised remain. Libraries and museums as reference centres. Mr Subramanium's relation with the lobbyist Niira Radia and his actions during the investigation into 2G licences. and spaces for performing arts and events . Intelligence and vigilance inquiries on these officers have also been reportedly stepped up. hygiene. Beyond infrastructural provisions such as housing.The collegium had recommended Mr Subramanium's name to the government. Thus. It has since been learnt that the other names recommended along with Mr Subramanium's have been accepted. this constructive engagement also includes generating livelihoods and addressing the needs of the vulnerable. for example. and politicises judicial appointments. These events have been amply explained by Mr Subramanium. Culturebased initiatives built into the master plans and goals for the cities of the future have devised universal indices that position their rank as creative cities. Mr Subramanium himself contends that the government merely asked its investigative agencies for an excuse to blackball him. which symbolises the spirit of the country Civilisation literally means living in a city. Urban renewal is a term that describes ways of constructively dealing with the problems that growing cities encounter. festival squares and galleries. the government's action rests clearly on questionable facts and was not revealed transparently. For example. The word is derived from the Latin word ‘civitas’. Reports have also emerged that bureaucrats who served ministers in the previous government could not serve ministers in this one: Home Minister Rajnath Singh was denied his preferred choice of private secretary in the process. the investigation into illegal surveillance by anti-terrorism squads in Gujarat is likely to be withdrawn . and must be addressed by both the government and the judiciary.such as. this insults not just a respected lawyer but the judicial system itself. Other media reports revealed the facts the government claimed lay behind its reasoning . which means city-state. Then there's the suggestion that state governors quit en masse. This action on judicial appointments combines with several other problematic actions to suggest a regrettable move towards politicisation of appointments and the judicial system. transport and basic amenities for populations. Mr Subramanium pointedly referred to his actions as amicus curiae in the Gujarat fake encounter cases.which should not have happened if the BJP or the Gujarat government has nothing to hide. This politicisation of appointments is a cloud over a government that has otherwise started well. Mr Subramanium has since withdrawn his name from contention.

renewing urban areas in decay. They are far from expendable. The audience composed largely of migrants. This was a grand international strategy to ensure that 21st century France would remain an international hub of creativity and imagination. bringing art to the public domain.including those for deprived precincts. the Lincoln Center (New York) or the Smithsonian Institution along the National mall (Washington) celebrate people’s engagement with culture. “While we shape our buildings. are as important as funds for city artists. Paris and Bilbao as worldclass architectural spaces. the iconic renovations and additions to the Louvre. neighbourhood multipurpose institutions such as the cross-cultural Arab Cultural Research Center. and the revival of the inner city with bold new agoras. the visionary Chicago architect. the construction of Chandigarh and Brasilia by new design or the rejuvenation of inclusive precincts like Potsdamer Platz (Berlin). . Surely there is inspiration here for South Asia’s premier capital.” said Daniel Burnham. The regeneration of human settlements is at the core of India’s future. designers and architects to develop art and a creative environment in the public domain. and promoting the type of active citizen whose pride and self-esteem is an asset to any community. Amid the glass towers and glitzy malls that are spreading like cancer. Boosting local economies ‘Culture’ and ‘the arts’ are often mistaken as an expendable resource as administrators look for ways to tighten their budgets. technology and heritage interact with one another. the goal of Mitterrand’s strategy was to make this ancient city a hub of interest for the residents as well as its growing number of visitors. The renewal of Barcelona. The President stated clearly that business and technology were the means to achieve this multi-dimensional goal for a cultural connect. is there a single big idea in India today that can change the dreary urban scape? “Make no little plans. and for its state capitals which imitate one another. It is part of a long-term strategy where business. initiatives using the two have often assumed key roles in boosting local economies. thereafter they shape us. To commit to these activities as an economic and social strategy is a smart form of investment for a nation state. Winston Churchill declared inimically. building cultural complexes.” Rajiv Gandhi began the much misunderstood ‘Apna Utsav’ festival in the 1980s to attract international tourists while presenting the multi-disciplinary skills of indigenous communities from around the country. they have no magic to stir men’s blood. With a united Europe. Hosting imaginative world events. New Delhi. and reinventing the city can help overhaul its economy. Consider President François Mitterrand’s Grands Projets (Grand Project) for Paris — which included the construction of the Opéra Bastille (the New Opera). the Arc extending the axis of bold vistas.

Another example is Anish Kapoor’s ‘Cloud Gate’. which symbolises the spirit of the country. local and outside populations have played a pivotal role in reviving depressed economies. An appropriate and clear site in the heart of the city would not be difficult to find. It also had the courage to invite an Englishman and an Italian to design its revolutionary concept that brings more tourists to the city today than the Eiffel Tower. which has given Chicago an icon that can be instantly recognised by the world. Urban India. . is a peculiar process of urbanisation. I find with chagrin that I cannot have both. either as a monument or a precinct. a vast network of neighbourhoods which link rural migrants to a resurgent and vibrant countryside. Its sensitive implementation will of course involve concerted engagement with neighbouring countries. amid a clutch of unprecedented world-class facilities along the public-private partnership model. with innovative and indigenous rejuvenation. and institutes of textile and fashion technology. The master plan includes the setting up of national museums of architecture and design. a visionary plan — the South Asian Design Arts and Technology Kendra (SADAK) — has been growing in the Delhi Development Authority that could excite the imagination of the whole subcontinent. and city facility and polish. and ignoring their inherent qualities. are more fragile now. ministries.486 square kilometres. This design-led cross-disciplinary enterprise could become a centre of excellence. The Centre Pompidou in the middle of Paris did precisely this. Conserving decaying monuments while creating a new vocabulary is recognised as a critical attractor — it sparks popular imagination. SADAK is a pivotal concept seeking redevelopment of a precinct. Tourism as a subset of culture is a growing field that employs millions of people. It will have to articulate an integrated view of changing demographies and diverse communities living together. Our historic monuments. increasingly being subsumed by illegal growth.” India is in a unique position. India’s overemphasis on the expansion of its towns and cities without questioning their failings. yet hardly one kilometre is reserved for celebrating our cultural heritage. What can be done to convey the dynamic living force of an emerging nation. museums of photography and visual image. the corporate and NGO sectors. linking the old with the new. Delhi covers 1. is a large part of our future as a nation. The South Asian subcontinent needs to critically redefine its own concept of civilisation. A visionary plan In India’s capital cities there is not even a single landmark development. generating both confidence among local residents and bringing in influential visitors. and more critically. The synergy of its past and present can help it accomplish both. speaking from a western perspective said: “I wish for rural strength and religion. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Maybe a new government will dust the SADAK file and take it out of the hands of an apathetic bureaucracy. without throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Over the last 20 years.In all the above examples. an area however derelict.

Closing this programme — a small component of SSA’s budget — will have deep repercussions for many vulnerable families in Rajasthan. Unfortunately. They work in the brick kiln. Some have estimated that around six million school-aged children in India participate in family-based labour migration every year. Besides. shows that “source-based” intervention. as well as a review of social protection strategies for migrants. the flagship programme for universalising elementary education. SSA provides for two wardens hired from the community. forced to take on most of the household responsibilities in their parents’ absence. Millions more are impacted indirectly. These risks are disproportionately felt by the children of migrants who are often compelled to travel to worksites with their parents. especially during the agricultural season. children can focus on their studies and stay within the safety of their own villages. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat itself. neither the Central nor state governments have made migrant children a priority. The programme is cost-effective because it uses facilities that are already available at the local school. My survey in villages in Banswara district of southern Rajasthan revealed that 75 per cent of women and 82 per cent of men had migrated to Gujarat for work at least once in their lifetime. they often prefer to keep their link with the village. Evidence from my fieldwork in southern Rajasthan.Orphaned by our education system Cutbacks in funds for hostels under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have pushed children of migrants out of schooling The seasonal migrant labour population of India is estimated by some scholars to be as high as 100 million. High numbers of women A 1997 study on migration in the area led by David Mosse found that 42 per cent of the migrant workforce from the Bhil area was female. such as setting up migratory hostels. it also comes with high risks. due to a “change in priorities”. While almost all ST families in . spending significant portions of the year away from home. cotton ginning and agricultural industries. While migration can open new economic possibilities for families. As a result. The urban areas of central Gujarat have long been a popular destination for poor migrants from Scheduled Tribe communities from Rajasthan. Student hostels Consider the case of the migratory hostel programme run by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). they “circulate” between their villages and various “destination areas” for work. in the areas where migrants originate are needed to prevent child migration and child labour. Unfortunately. meals. students who would otherwise be forced to migrate with their parents are allowed to stay in the primary school building for the sixmonth migration period. The idea is simple but effective: at the request of the local school. construction. They face barriers in accessing social services and settling permanently in urban areas. the Central government has decided to deny funding to Rajasthan’s 80 migratory hostels for the upcoming year. and some basic supplies.

This is a daunting task both for the hired contract teacher and for the students. In their parent’s absence. the whole family must migrate to the worksite because they have no place to leave their children in the home village. With both parents migrating. as well as the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya programme of girls’ residential . bridge courses to prepare them academically for entry into the age appropriate standard in school. During the year I conducted fieldwork in Banswara. while missing out on educational opportunities. that many STPs fail.this area own some land. it makes sense to invest in dropout prevention. at one time. Re-integrating them into the school system is done through the SSA’s special training programmes (STPs). leaving them little to no time to attend school. over a third of the STPs in the district had to be shut down. Reliance on migrant labour as a livelihood strategy has major costs to the family.40. their landholdings are small and often unproductive. sustained their livelihoods off the forest. While 79 per cent of adults surveyed reported that they had participated in the scheme. illness and exploitation. 34 per cent of the migrant households had taken at least one child with them to worksites that year. children as young as 12 must manage all household responsibilities and care for younger siblings. there are increasing incidences of child-headed households in southern Rajasthan. The most successful STPs were the ones with residential facilities like the migratory hostels. Even five-year-olds start working in the brick kiln industry where the piecemeal wage system encourages child labour. AIF. however. only a few families said it had impacted their migration behaviour. most remain burdened with economic insecurity and indebtedness to local moneylenders. Since migration-induced dropouts account for much of the out-of-school population. who may have already been in the workforce for a few years. While some have been able to harness their earnings from migrant labour to move ahead economically. among the most marginalised communities. making any benefits from such interventions marginal. Many schools I visited had a dropout rate of around 25 per cent. many with funding by the American India Foundation (AIF). particularly in the ST areas. Risks to children Children brought to worksites face the risk of injury. Various NGOs. The migratory hostels. For instance. The Prayas Centre for Labour Research and Action estimates there are 8.10. have piloted educational outreach for children at worksites. which supports migratory hostel programmes for high-migration areas in three states. Many of Rajasthan’s 4.000 out-of-school children at brick kilns alone. Massive deforestation in the region has also limited opportunities for these communities which. has shifted its Learning and Migration Programme (LAMP) from a dual focus on source and destination areas to one entirely source village-centric. Nor has the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) had much effect on the migration patterns of families in southern Rajasthan.957 out-of-school children have exited due to migration pressures. It is not surprising. Accordingly. In Banswara. therefore. 75 per cent of adults who reported they had migrated within the past year had also participated in MGNREGS at least once. Worksites cannot be easily made into education-friendly environments.

Research across India is beginning to piece together a picture of an increasingly mobile labour class. . especially those felt by the children. have both proven to be effective in preventing migration-induced dropouts. must be made a key priority in order for India to meet its development targets. Addressing the risks faced by this population.primary schools.