Written By: Akanksha
Akanksha is a 2nd Year Student at NMIMS, School of law, Bangalore, Karnataka.
HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE OF ECOLOGICAL EXPLOITATION & DEVELOPMENT OF ECO – FEMINISM IN INDIA
India being a land of agrarian Economy where the people have their settlements on the yardstick of natural resources, forest in particular, posses within the history of eternity, so is the history of Eco-feminism. India is among the list of few countries where nature is considered as mother or maternal figure. Further the personification of nature and the idea of similarities between women and nature have its origin way back to the Vedic era and epics of Indian treasury.
With the arrival of colonial regime, the Indian Ecology and resources are the matter of Economic monopoly for the colonial power. The colonial period has brought major changes and challenges in the core of urbanization. Between 1800- 1974, India witnessed rigorous policy intervention in forest management. Since 1855, the development of railway network led to major deforestation, which consequently affected the life of Economically marginalised women. But with the passage of time and ideological advancement among native women, it brought a major change in the environmental protest and its demography.
In late 1970s the portrayal of women’s relation environmental conservation became transparent thought the globally acclaimed Chipko movement. This movement was utilised as the method to safeguard trees from commercial timber cutter that had lead to a major deforestation in the Himalayan range, northern segment of Uttar Pradesh and immediate west of Nepal. The activists in this movement has adopted a Gandhian non-violent protest wherein they embrace the trees trunk to insinuate their bodies between the trees and the axe men.
Narmada bachao andolan is also among the list of most powerful mass movement that is considered among the realm of Ecofeminist movement. This movement started in year 1985, against the construction of hugedam on the river Narmada for electricity production. The proposed Sardar Sarovar Dam and Narmada Sagar will potentially displace more than 250,000 people especially tribal people who have their substantive survival on river and forests nearby. Apart from these two Ecofeminist movementon the holy land of India, there were number of small or large scale protest in different parts of the country for instance Save the Western Ghats Movement, save silent valley movement (1978, Kerala),Jungle Bachao Andolan (1882, Bihar), which served a platter to Ecofeminism expansion and rEcognition of women’s and nature’s right.
Women’s in India, particularly those who belongs to outskirts, rural and tribal communities are solely dependent on forest resources like timer, fuels, fruits, berries, and other stuff to run their daily household. But with the over exploitation and contamination of natural resources, deforestation, mining on hills, building dams on river for electricity production, advance agricultural equipment and supplies created an unprecedented damage to the resources which leads to the unhealthy survival of women and family. Now, the women who use to extract water to run their family have to travel miles in order to fetch water because of unavailability of safe and consumable water bodies, restricted forest areas and deforestation cause malfunction of tribal kitchen due to the lack of firewood. Further, mining on hills, deforestation and construction of roads and buildings cause a major change in Ecological balance, land slide and soil erosion became common in those areas which has harshly and hardly affected the overall population, especially among women.
These changes and development as conceived by one of the famous Ecofeminist in India Vandana Shiva, is the legacy of colonial mind-set. She views the modern science and technological advancements as a patriarchal project which is inherently violent and dominates the will of both women and nature.The problem born out of environmental exploration and patriarchal influence on natural entities has created an environmental emergency that needs to be addressed. Because of its elementary idea, structural, historical hierarchical resemblance with the marginalised, vulnerable and submissive section of society that is women, Ecofeminism provides a very efficient way to deal with all these issues.
It is believed that women inherently have a very soft corner for environment and it’s wellbeing, which can be extracted from aforementioned examples of Chipko movement, Namada bacho Andolon in the context of India. The Green belt movement in Kenya (1977), Love canal movement against disposal of chemical in New York (1978). These Ecofeminist movements in the beginning of 20th century has expanded the horizon of environmental protection not only in India but across the globe.
India, in past few decades especially during the colonial regime and post colonial era went through massive environmental crisis, which dragged it to the pit of being one of the most polluted countries in the world. Incidents like Bhopal gas tragedy, Oleum gas leakage, Aarey forest cleaning, Green Revolution, construction of humongous dams on rivers, mining in Deccan or Himalayan ranges, created a situation wherein the life of millions of people were on stake. Though there had been a number of environmental laws and policies to regulate the crisis but it’s implementation and personal awakening among the patriarchal mind-set is still an issue that requires further amendments.
The tool of Ecofeminism, which has already been proven affective, can still be utilised to conserve our own environment that has nurtured us not less than but equally like a mother.
The law that are in place for instance, Forest Conservation Act 1980, the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, Environmental Protection Act 1986 etc. are very old and evasive law that needs to be updated keeping in few the need of hour and feminist angle so that the women can utilise it in very effective way without harassing environmental entities.
The idea of protected forest or in simple terms the demarcation on forest land needs to be liberalised for the tribal indigenous population living in the forest area, so that the women portion of those community need not be cruising across the ocean in order to get their daily stuffs like firewood, timber, fruits or berries.
The mining on the Himalayan or Deccan ranges should be effectively regulated so that the agricultural land or nearby population will not suffer because of drilling, cutting and crushing of rocks, which causes heart, lungs and other health issues to the nearby population, especially pregnant women.
The laws that deals with afforestation and forest conservation need to be well versed in order to conserve forest, which is the source of livelihood of many women of rural and tribal communities.
Water bodies like lake, river pound and streams should wholly be protected from pollution because the water sources are the lifeline of number of villagers and the homemaker who have to wander miles to fetch water so that they can feed their family or quench their thrust with safe and consumable water. The same can be attained with the better implementation of existing statutes, and individual efforts.
The exposer to pollution is more dangerous to women when compared to men because of its anatomical and morphological structure, and the level of pollution in which India is suffering needs to be controlled but the legislative measure are not approximate to the environmental pollution, for instance truancy of essential cooperative federalism, problem of Environmental budgeting which has uniformly been designed by centre, hence it fails to tackle endogenous and local Environmental issues. In addition to these issues there are countless flaws that highlights an alarming call for human to check this crisis. Around 4 million people died per day because of environmental pollution and the same can be achieved by applying polite attitude towards nature which has always been exploited.
Further the patriarchal idea of eternal fertility among nature and women make it very hurtful for their integral existence. India is the sEcond most populated country in the world after china and is likely to surpass it by 2027 as per 2019 UN report. The religious beliefs of human beings and the desire for male child is one of the reason whereby the women have to go for multiple pregnancy that not only causes health issues to them but also exert pressure on natural resources creating problem like pollution and resource exploitation and in order to tackle this problem, we as humans have to give adequate respect to both the genders. Government also needs to come up with strict laws curbing population born issues.
In the age of bio-weapon, nuclear war, atomic fusion or fission and electronic advancement the disposal of the waste products generated out of them is a big task, because of its composition and chemical reaction that is a potential treat to the life of human being, especially pregnant women . Number of movements one of which is Love canal movement of New York are the examples which portrays the Ecofeminist concern for these issues. India being no expectation faces similar challenges. The recent Indian Economy is fairly based on IT department and primarily the wave of Ecofeminism is potent to settle these environmental crisis. Indian government have to look after the potential threat caused by these electric wastes and how with the help of proper facilities and legislation these issues can be eradicated.
Apart from all the above mentioned position the one thing that can escalate, and ascend the position of women and environment on the land of India is the spark of rational education from the grassroots level not only among children but also among adult. The government of India needs to formulate an education policy that supports all the marginalised section including women in a very promising manner. Also, the environmental studies should be inculcated from the early stage of education that will also include elementary introduction of the newly adopted topics like Ecofeminism.
“We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all.” — Vandana Shiva.
Historically, women’s inner most awareness of nature has helped to succour life. The Ecofeminists theory celebrates the same interconnection of women with nature, by the popularization of age old rituals centred on the Mother Goddess, animals, the moon, and the female reproductive system. This prehistoric aeon, centred on goddess worship, was uncrowned by the upspring of patriarchal culture with male gods to whom the female deities were acquiescent. In line with the same lineage, Scientific Revolution during the 17th century had overthrown the mother earth with the metaphor of a machine. Now the earth is dominated by male developed andcontrolled science technologies, and industry. Analysing this situation, the Ecofeminists group argues against the presiding view that female are cramped by being closer to the nature, because of their reproductive capability to bear children. 
Though the concern for Ecological and environment issues entered the main stream of discourse on development and social movements only after the 1972 Stockholm Conference on Environment and Development, but the seed of the same was shown way back in the context of India and Ecofeminism was one among the lot. India being the pioneer country of Ecofeminism needs to adopt the same ideology so that the environment can be conserved not only on a self esteemed basis but more on a sophisticated affection ground. It’s high time that we human need to understand the fact which was pointed by Evo Morales that “Sooner or later, we will have to rEcognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans”. The basis of Ecofeminism is not merely based on correlation between nature and women but it also comprehends the above mentioned quote. There is no denying in admitting that Ecofeminism can be used as a mechanism to resolve a lot of issues that the world, especially what India in particular is going through.
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