In a world ravaged with war, famine, nuclear waste and other disasters, a common concern for future occupies significant position between both the African continent and India. Though identifying similarities between the two cultures is not the same as identifying existing differences, this essay is an attempt towards finding a solution to environmental peril faced by the antediluvian nations. The mighty continent with its 54 recognised sovereign states (countries), 9 territories and three de facto states with limited recognition, has close ties with the vibrant country of 28 states and 7 union territories. Both Africa and India are known associates from the period of colonial rule, many African labourers or war slaves settled in India during the British colonial rule and similarly many Indians settled in the eastern Africa. The vital sea route brought Africa and India closer because they not only traded spices and other commodities but also several ships from both the regions harboured at each other’s ports. Mahatma Gandhi was the ambassador from the Indian shore to the continent; he fought against racial discrimination and other issues that plagued Africa during those days.
Animism constitutes a major part of both the countries religious composition. The relationship is two centuries old and in this hour of urgency, where the environment is deteriorating at an alarming rate both the nations have to come together to compete, collaborate and co-create a sustainable future. Africa is the vital link between the western countries and the oriental countries, its ports aid in shipping and due to this its lands have been subjected to several degradations. The dumping activities carried out by the developed nations have immense impact on the environment. Tones of imported goods enter the African borders from all over the world; these goods constitute second hand electronics, hazardous metal, oil and other noxious elements which other countries feel free to dump in the African coast. The waste which has been imported along with the domestic waste that has been generated needs to be managed. India has a different take on the menace of waste.
In the populous country the domestic waste itself is difficult to handle. According to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) India, 4.4 million tonnes waste is produced in India annually out of which 38.3% is recyclable, 4.3% is non recyclable and 57.4% is disposable in secured landfills, but nothing is been done till now in this direction. Urbanization is changing the socio-economic landscape of both Africa and India at a momentous rate; if numbers are to be believed Africa has the highest rate of urbanization i.e. 3.5% annually (according to the United Nations report). Therefore the need of the hour is to provide basic amenities with an efficient waste management system. In the resource rich continent of Africa several private players are on a rampant drive to dig out all wealth from the earth and its core. Mining of ores, diamond and other minerals has destroyed the surroundings and deprived other denizens their rights to use and preserve the common wealth. In the Indian sub-continent illegal mining and subsequent minting of money is the trend. Numerous companies across oceans have already started their battle to exploit the resources of the nation.
The 26,000 kilometre long coastline makes Africa and its marine life vulnerable to oil spills. The gigantic tankers carrying gallons of perilous chemicals and gases are often subjected to nature’s fury or attacks which ultimately affects the environment. Indian shores are not far away from such degrading activities, numerous incidences have occurred in the past which highlight the incapability of the authority to fight back and restore. There are abundant other issues that have been pestering inhabitants of both Africa and India and in the future several others would crop up, therefore both Africa and India have to relentlessly work towards attaining the desired sustainable development and a perfect environment. India and Africa can adopt the famous PPP module to combat the pest. Public Private Partnership is the module which can help the authorities to share their responsibilities with the effective and efficient partner, the private sector. The absence of waste management infrastructure in rural Africa and rural India is a threat; the ill equipped municipalities make things worse. Through PPP these municipalities can have the required aid from the local private institutions and overcome the hurdle.
This would ultimately lead to income generation not only from wage payments but also from sale of items recovered from solid wastes like (manure, organic fertilizers and biogas). US $ 130 to US $ 800 can be earned monthly through such successful partnerships Religion has only been a medium to divide, disagree and distribute the territories. But, now the time has come where we have to convert our weakness into strengths and make religion our shield in the war to save our world. People have polluted River Ganges (Ganga) and its surroundings on the pretext of several religious functions to attain the purity of soul, other rivers in India also act as the contaminant carriers and dumping grounds. Rivers in Africa too are subjected to degradation. The rivers have now become a perennial source of diseases. These issues have to be dealt with care as it relates to the religious sentiments of sects of people. Therefore it is through their religion that we have to make them realize their misconception about the concept of religion.
Alliance of religions and conservation (ARC) founded by H R H Prince Philipin is a firm step in this process. ARC in partnership with the Oxford centre for Hindu Studies has formed the Bhumi Project which is a worldwide Hindu response to environment change; the project had its visit to India in December 2010 and discussed with the head of the Hindu religions on issues such as cleaning of Yamuna and the more sustainable procedures to do farming in India. The project also visited Africa to meet the heads of Hindu religion there in Kenya and talk about the conservation process to be carried out there. Such projects are like bridges between the country and the continent and also between religions for the purpose to save earth. The need of the hour is a project that brings together almost all cultures and religion in a forum where these entities can discuss the possibilities to frame an alliance for conservation, the religious way. The formation of a council which would have the eminent environmentalists as the mentors or leaders and the concerned citizens as members has to be formed. The council would have participation from both Africa and India.
The council should be inspired by the work of Baba Amte in the field of wild life protection and conservation; they should work in the path set by late Wangari Muta Maathai to provide relentless service in the mission to save the planet. The mentors for the joint effort would be Dr. Sam Pitroda who has immensely contributed in the fight against global warming, his works and presence would help the council to govern and regulate issues. Medha Patkar , known for her famous “Narmada bachao andolan” should also be roped in so that she can share her expertise and help the council to formulate the plans and policies. Lawrence Anthony the famous wild life conservationist would be an exceptional choice for the council because of his love for animals, knowledge and expertise of the African continent. He would guide the council in all its efforts. David Fig is another notable South African environmentalist and sociologist; his presence will strengthen the council and help them to edge out better policies. The hunter turned environmentalist, Lindsay Hunt would immensely help to know the areas where attention is necessary. Menka Gandhi would be an obvious choice for the council because of her political influence that when needed can be exercised and which would help the council to be legally sound, besides that her efforts in the field of conservation can be put together in a bigger canvas.
Ajay Jain and Anil Agarwal both from the heart of India would enormously help to add to the conservation process and Ajay being a pioneer in the field of bio-medical waste management can extensively help to formulate best techniques to manage waste. The Indo African commission along with other countries which are subjected to such environmental pressures, need to regulate, regularize and reform the primitive practices that affect the environment and to put an end to the modern techniques which are against our planet. The commission should implement the provisions of The Bamko, The Basel and Cotonou Conventions. It should also relentlessly assist all other countries to formulate a plan and abide by its provision in the surge to protect environment. The council once formed has to carry out several activities both in India as well as in Africa. They have to regulate the government policies on issues such as mining, shipping of hazardous chemicals and carry out both legal as well as administrative proceedings to come up with sustainable laws.
They have to sanction funds and employ more people in the posts of forest guards, naval guards to look into the matter of forest and water body degradation. The council along with its mentors and members will have to bring in the required change. In 2011 itself the Prime Minister of India in his visit to Africa has announced the formation of cluster of food processing and textile industries to help the agricultural industry in the African continent. 5 billion dollars have been sanctioned by the government to help Africa carry out the initiative of infrastructural development. Cluster of African nations have also wilfully vouched to help India in its effort to overcome the environmental issues. Similarly both the nation and the continent have to become the helping arms of each other in the process of environmental control in almost every possible manner they can. These changes have to be brought by us through the methods which are efficient and effective. India and Africa both are tropical countries which experience high temperatures, harnessing solar energy would help to solve numerous problems of the environment as less energy would be produced with the help of non renewable resources. Both the countries have long coastlines which they can use it to their advantage for generating electricity.
Wind energy can also be harnessed. Scientist from both the countries should come together in forums conducted by the council to discuss and share the knowledge and existing infrastructure. Both the countries can do miracles with each other’s financial, technical and relentless support. African institutions have to collaborate with the Indian institutions to print texts on sustainability in the developing nations so as to make the future citizens a school of learned people and help them to skim through all the hurdles. Arenas and forums ought to be created where the ignited minds of both the nations can deliberate over all the vital issues related to environment. Films, documentaries depicting the worsening conditions landscapes and on other global issues relating to environment has to be screened. Africa and India will have to put a ban on the use of plastics, urge to emit less of pollutants and other harmful substances.
Globally this alliance of the warm, benevolent and pulsating continent and the 2nd largest democratic nation would mark an era of sustainable development through co-operation and collaboration between nations. This would also lead to development of techniques which would suit countries across oceans and would help to eliminate differences between nations. The techniques formulated and technology created through the alliance will help both the countries to be economically independent and be ready for the future. Let this alliance turn into a relationship with strong bonds to fight for a better future for our children to live in.