Communicating the True Ecological Cost of Development: Addressing Development and Environment in Orissa, India

Mishra, Maitreyee (2010) Communicating the True Ecological Cost of Development: Addressing Development and Environment in Orissa, India. In: International Conference on Future Imperatives of Communication and Information for Development and Social Change, 20-22 December 2010, (UNESCO-Orbicom Chair), Bangkok, Thailand 20-22 December 2010, Session 2 (3) [digital]..

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Orissa is one of India's poorest states, with a per capita net State Domestic Product in 2006/7 of Rs. 20,200 which is 35 percent below the all-India average (Panda, 2008). The State has witnessed drastic changes in its environment over the last few decades which include rising temperatures, large-scale deforestation, alternating droughts and floods, cyclones, sea erosion and agricultural decline. The State's desire to develop has dwelt on rapid industrialisation in view of deepening poverty and increasing economic competition in a globalised Indian economy, and is based on extraction of its rich natural resources. This has in turn led to the inflow of investment and investment promises with numerous proposed projects across the State, such as Vedanta's bauxite plant at Niyamgiri and the steel plants at Paradeep (Posco), Kalinga Nagar (Tata), Keonjhar (Arcelor-Mittal) and many others. These projects have seen opposition by the local people and environmentalists, with examples of substantial achievements made by local tribes in the case of Vedanta's project at Niyamgiri. The skewed relationship between Orissa's fragile environment and the pressures of forwarding development, have essentially meant that the environmental and ecological aspects have been grossly compromised. Orissa's resource-rich districts are inhabited by tribes for whom the forests, hills and rivers are Gods and the very essence of their culture is rooted in an innate connectedness with the Earth. The opening of Orissa's natural resources has both ecological and social implications. Displacement comes with visible and invisible costs. The visible factors can be addressed with a monetary dimension. Invisible factors, however, are complex and cannot be calculated; these include emotional, cultural, social and spiritual dislocation. Since the mid-nineties, a groundswell of resistance has been seen against such displacement, which the State has quelled with an iron hand, as evidenced in the killings in Kashipur and Kalinganagar. Furthermore, grassroots organisations that represent the voices of the affected are being repressed by declaring them „enemies of the State‟. The paradigm of quick industrialisation is actively supported by all political parties, the middle classes and significant portions of the media. Orissa's desire to industrialise contrasts with efforts to preserve and protect its environment and the people dependent on it. Communication lies at the heart of this discourse, for it has the potential to shape our understanding and perceptions of the environment and thus define how we behave towards it (Milstein, 2009). It can also help create an upward flow of information and opinions, increase transparency and inclusion, bring issues for discussion and debate, and in turn influence policy. The mass media as vehicles of green communication have the potential for representation of environmental causes. Orissa's mass media have largely echoed dominant political philosophies and this has also been in the case of the environment. Upward communication in the case of the environment has been absent in media representations and reporting. This paper takes a conceptual approach, while drawing from previous research and case studies to explore the nature of coverage and representation of Orissa's environment in the mass media. It also looks at the nature of information flow in the media and the kind of enviromental dialogue taking place. The purpose of this paper is to establish the various dimensions of environmental communications: the mass media and construction of the „environment‟ in Orissa; the gaps in communication and representation in the media; and the role of horizontal and bottoms-up approaches in environmental communication. Through these discussions, the paper explores the future of environmental communication, the challenges of communicating environmental risks and damages, particularly when dealing with the complex relationship between development and environmental conflict.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: environmental-development conflict;tribal communities; displacement;empowerment;communication
Subjects: Communication > MIC Manipal
Depositing User: MIC Library
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2011 08:32
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2011 11:00

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