THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 26 August 2020 Living with the earth in Kerala(The Hindu)

Living with the earth in Kerala(The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3:Environment 
Prelims level: Gadgil report
Mains level: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


  • Natural disasters have by now come to be accepted as a feature of the annual monsoon season in Kerala. 
  • In the past two years there has been flooding on an unprecedentedscale along with landslides. 
  • Last year, 59 people lost their lives in a landslide at Kavalappara in Malappuram district. 
  • This year we have seen one at Pettimudi in Idukki district where a hill collapsed, submerging the houses of estate workers while they slept. 
  • The estimated death toll had reached 65 some days ago, with persons still missing.
  • On top of the landslides, we have had to bear witness to a spectacular plane crash at Kozhikode airport, again accompanied with a loss of lives. 
  • The crash serves as a reminder that further hardship awaits us if we do not jettison development model that has come to characterise the State.

It’s plunder everywhere:

  • The fact that Kerala has received wide acclaim for having achieved social indicators associated with high human development has meant that a crucial underlying dynamic has been ignored. 
  • This dynamic is one of an unrelentingattack on the foundation of human survival, natural capital. 
  • Everywhere in Kerala the earthhas been violated. 
  • The rivers are polluted when they are not dry, the valleys are filled with garbage and the hills gougedout to accommodate residences and religious houses when they have not been dynamited for quarrying. 
  • It is quite extraordinary that this has all taken place in a State that has been hailed by a section of the intelligentsia as representing the gold standard of development. 
  • For anyone willing to read the signs, such a decimationof natural capital, with its attendant consequences of flooding and landslides, bodes ill for the future of a whole people.
  • The natural disasters recurring year after year and the recent plane crash both represent the outcome of the hubristhat we can consume as if the earth does not matter. 
  • As natural capital, such as year-round water availability and the nutrient content of the soil, has diminished. 
  • It has impacted sectors of the economy such as agriculture. We have also now seen that the way we treat the earth matters also for our very security.

At the core is politics:

  • Kerala’s future is inextricably linked to how it conserves its natural capital. 
  • With consumption defined broadly to include land use, it is apparent that the conservation of the State’s natural resources is crucially dependent upon a restrainton consumption. 
  • Politics is central to this issue, not in the sense of what political parties do in the normal course but whether citizens decide to alterthe course of development by their action. 
  • This response cannot end with minimising one’s own consumption but must extend to calling out instances of the depletion of natural capital by vested interests. 
  • Kerala’s vested interests are not only economic, which are visible, but also cultural, which are less so. 
  • It is difficult to imagine that politics as usual, as defined by the two political fronts that have ruled Kerala for decades by now, will lead the State to a place where conservation of nature will guide our actions. 
  • Actually, the state of natural capital in the State reflects an absence of governance. 
  • Political parties everywhere are reluctant to dampenthe aspiration for greater consumption for fear that it affects their electoral prospects.
  • Though the plane crash at Kozhikode cannot so easily be construed as resulting in the destruction of natural capital, it can be seen as trying to extend the limits it imposes, with consequences for our security. 
  • While tabletop runways are by no means peculiar to Kerala, airports on India’s southwest coast have to face the challenge of the monsoon which produces hazardous conditions for landing. 
  • Also, Kozhikode sees much greater traffic than say Kathmandu or Shimla, thus increasing the possibility of a mishap.
  • Ever since the crash of a flight in Mangaluru, an airport with similar characteristics, in 2010, it has been apparent that flights to Kozhikode are vulnerable. 
  • The answer would not have been to end flights but to avoid the height of the monsoon and to take wide-bodied aircraft off the menu. 
  • Experts on air safety have spoken publicly of how they had raised concerns about Kozhikode soon after Mangaluru. 
  • While this appears to have been over-ruled by a political process, we the people are no less culpable by nurturing consumption aspirations unmindful of the contours of the earth.

Past and Present:

  • It is useful to recall the belief that Kerala was named for its geography. For centuries, its people demonstrated a genius for conserving natural resources by restraining their consumption. 
  • This was soon lost as its economy globalised and domestic consumption came to be fuelled by wealth generated offshore. 
  • Building local infrastructure to support this consumption has become a threat to life. 


Prelims Questions:

Q.1)With reference to the Guru Granth Sahib, consider the following statements:

1. The first Prakash Purab Utsav marked the installation of Guru Granth Sahib in Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden temple, in 1604.
2. The Guru Granth Sahib is written in the Devanagari script.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1)Why Kerala is prone to floods? What mitigation strategies Kerala need to be opted and know about various reports on the Kerala’s ecosystem conservation like Gadgil report?