A very summary preparation

THE SUB-CONTINENT, judging by these three reports, went prepared to Rio. In fact, the first report, prepared by a Sri Lankan NGO, chides UNCED for trying to save the earth without even consulting its people. The three reports focus on the major environmental problems of these countries. They draw attention to the state of the life support systems -- land, water and biological resources -- and the pressures on them.

But the reports, including the Sri Lankan one, lack a conceptualisation of the inter-linkages between the various aspects of the environment and how exactly global problems are linked to national ones. None of the three countries seem to admit that what they are fighting for at the global level has a local counterpart, namely, community control of natural resources. This is rather strange, considering that the Indian report has a box on Ralegan Siddhi, a unique success story of community resource management. The Pakistan report mentions the case of PAASBAN, a successful example of population control through community efforts. Are these examples only fit to be mentioned in boxes or should these countries learn from these efforts and internalise them in their thinking?

The reports are unanimous in demanding a system of development that removes poverty and generates sustainability. But apart from voicing this demand, they are silent on how to achieve this. The crucial issue of evolving a common southern stand is not addressed at all. Why wait for George Bush? Appropriate globalisation can begin at home in this region itself.