Chapter 2.6 – Environmental Security, Land Restoration, and the Military: A Case Study of the Ecological Task Forces in India
By Dhanasree Jayaram, Manipal University, Manipal, Karnataka, India
Land restoration and its military dimensions, as part of the environmental security discourse, have not received as much attention as they should in mainstream environmental security studies and policy discussions. This section attempts to fill this crucial gap by providing insight into the relationships between these concepts using theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence. The successes achieved by the Ecological Task Forces (ETFs) in land restoration in India, particularly the Bhatti mining area of Delhi, are used as case studies to elucidate the role of the armed forces in environmental security, commonly not considered to be a security issue. The text argues that there is a dire need to incorporate environmental security (of which land restoration forms an integral part) within military strategy and, as a corollary, that the military should become a pivotal element of the nation’s environmental security policy.
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Review of Dhanasree’s chapter by Ramu C. M., an independent analyst working on geological and energy security.
Dhanasree Jayaram has brought to light a comprehensive and all-encompassing picture of the military’s, particularly the Ecological Task Force’s (ETF) role in restoring/reclaiming degraded land in India. Under the prevailing circumstances in the Indian policy-making milieu, where environmental security is still in the nascent stages of acceptance, in comparison to the traditional security discourses, this study can indeed be considered a daring endeavour with tangible outcomes. Even within the environmental security discourse, the military’s role has been rather sidelined for a long time. The author has done a commendable job by comparing and contrasting, and in turn, critically analysing the military’s role (in the Indian context) in land restoration activities. What is deservedly underlined is the military’s potential role as a rectifier of its own activities that in one way or the other contributes to the degradation of the environment.
In a country like India, where the demographic dividend often shares an inversely proportional relationship with the ecological environment, policies and initiatives aimed towards reclaiming parched landscapes attain utmost significance. The issue becomes all the more sensitive in such dichotomous instances, where indigenous peoples are forcibly displaced by laws that are no less intended for the protection of the environment. The author has done justice to the study by highlighting these recurring contradictions in the environmental protection policies in India. Coming to the crux of the paper, the author has infused some fresh blood by adopting a revolutionary approach to specifically understand the military’s role in supplementing land restoration efforts in India. The case study of the Bhatti mines and the ETF 132’s successful reclamation of the depleted terrain, deserves ample praise. In this case, the sheer discipline and tireless enthusiasm of the military was channelled towards productive environmental conservation measures. Therefore, this study should ideally appeal to the Indian policy elites; as it makes a bold attempt at unveiling the military’s so-called gray areas. It also calls for an urgent need to efficaciously tap into the hitherto underexploited domains of the military – which in the case of land restoration, has emerged as one of the most pressing concerns in the discourses that directly or indirectly deals with sustainable development.
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