RTIs and public action the best for transparency, says Piyush Manush

Ananya Srivastava

Chennai, March 21: “Humans are trying to control water, soil and air through religion and caste,” said environmental activist Piyush ‘Manush’ Sethia here today. The global theme of the day decided by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) was ‘promoting community and environmental sustainability’.

“80 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture, and water and soil are the two most important things for a farmer. In that sense, farmers should be the richest citizens of the country but it all comes down to water and its access.” Manush talked about the severe water crises the State is facing on World Social Work Day celebrated at the Madras School of Social Work in Egmore here, “Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border was sealed for three months and now there is a looming water crisis, and summer has not even started yet.”

“The Mettur dam supplied drinking water to eight districts, irrigates the whole Delta region and also gives water to industries. It has become a highly cramped, competitive water space as people are fighting for water there. The Chief Engineer of Tamil Nadu [S. Asokan] said that they are proposing to draw 12 TMC feet of water for Chennai, however, today the water is only 6 TMC feet in the dam,” he said.

Invoking the recent water disputes the region has seen, Manush said that they have been here for the past 20 years now, “There are fights among corporations, people in the villages, districts and now the states for water. And the availability of water will determine the development of this country.”

Of the resource extraction by companies, Manush alleged Madras Aluminium Limited Co. (MALCO) owned by the Vedanta Group which mined illegally for 12 years, for which he filed an RTI in 2008. “From 1900 to 2000, 100 million tonnes of bauxite was extracted. In 2000 to 2008, 300 million tonnes and between 2008 to 2012, 650 million tonnes of bauxite have been extracted,” he explained. “MALCO extracted 400 lorry loads of bauxite and disposed of chemically loaded 320 lorry loads into the banks of the Cauvery river. If a goat puts its hoof into the ‘red mud’, it will come out. The company pays a meagre royalty of Rs 15–20 a tonne for this.”

Manush said that intervening into government practices through filing RTIs and public action was the only requirement for transparency.

Social Work Day was first celebrated on July 10, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. In 2015, IFSW decided the theme to be promoting social and economic equality; in 2016, it was promoting dignity of the people.

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