World Water Day 2007: Nehru Award conferred on Wangari Maathai reminding of water wars in the offing Print E-mail
 Friday March 23 2007

Maathai highlights strong link between environment, peace

By P. Anima
(Photo: S. Cuprammonium)

Highlights the strong link between environment, governance and peace

Water is a resource over which wars will be waged, warns the Nobel laureate GBM, a symbol of the struggle for democracy in Kenya: Sonia

NEW DELHI: "Water is a resource over which we are going to wage wars," warned Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai delivering the Eighth Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Lecture in the capital on Wednesday. Highlighting the strong link between environment, governance and peace, Prof. Maathai said, "When communities start to scramble for limited resources conflicts begin."

Asserting that peace and security of the planet depended on effective management and sharing of resources and equity, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner said "access, control and distribution" of water, grazing land and other resources have been the cause of conflicts.

Delivering a lecture on `Environment, Democracy and Peace: A Critical Link', Prof. Maathai stressed the need for governance to be inclusive and responsive.

Drawing attention to the Green Belt Movement (GBM) she started, Prof. Maathai said it was meant to empower the citizen to take action. The campaign is an example of the involvement of people, especially women. "For every tree they planted and survived, the women got 10 U.S. cents with which they met the needs of food, clothes, utensils and school fees. Some built a home with the money," Prof. Maathai said. "The campaign that began with seven trees has now reached 40 million and is still counting," she added.

The GBM has now embarked on a campaign to plant a billion trees worldwide.

Stressing the urgency to save the planet, the Kenya-born environmentalist said, "We need forests, forests do not need human settlements. The world needs all the forests, wherever there are. Environment degrades slowly and one may not notice it. The generation that destroys the environment may not be the one that pays the price for it."

Touching upon the moral responsibility the present generation has towards protecting the rights of a generation that cannot speak for itself, Prof. Maathai called for visionary political leadership and corporate responsibility to face the challenge. In her welcome address, Chairperson of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Sonia Gandhi said Prof. Maathai's GBM campaign was "not only an assertion of environmental rights, but a symbol of the struggle for democracy in Kenya".
#2 Friday March 23 2007

Nehru award conferred on Wangari Maathai

Staff Reporter

In recognition of her courageous struggle for noble causes: Kalam

ECO HERO: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presenting the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding 2005 to Professor Wangari Muta Maathai of Kenya, at Rashtrapathi Bhavan, New Delhi, as Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh applaud (Photo: V. Sudershan)

NEW DELHI : President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam conferred the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding-2005 on Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai at a function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on Thursday.

Honouring ``one of the leading environmentalists of our times and a true friend of India,'' Mr. Kalam said: ``Prof. Maathai has evolved a movement with 600 community networks across Kenya and branches in 20 countries resulting in the plantation of over 31 million trees. Her mission has to spread to all parts of the planet. The award is in recognition of her persistent and courageous struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation."

The President said India values Prof. Maathai's involvement and contribution in furthering the relationship between the two countries.

Accepting the award, Prof. Maathai said she had always been inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. "Instead of using their position to enrich themselves, these leaders used their power to promote the cause of justice, equity and peace," said the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

``To live in peace, the governing bodies should respect human rights as well as give voice to the majority and minority as well to pre-empt conflicts.''

Prof. Maathai said the recognition had challenged her "to continue with a deep sense of service."

Chairman of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) jury, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, said Prof. Maathai was the unanimous choice for the award that was instituted in memory of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1965, a year after his death. "Prof. Maathai was the first woman from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize and she is also the first woman from Africa to win the Jawaharlal Nehru Award," said the Vice-President.

President of ICCR Karan Singh said Prof. Maathai's Green Belt Movement has "transformed the lives of millions of people in Kenya and other east African countries."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Minister Shivraj Patil and other dignitaries were present at the function.

Prof. Maathai has now joined an illustrious league of leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Indira Gandhi, who had won the award.
#3  Thursday March 22 2007

The marginalised have a right to be listened to: Wangari Maathai

Gargi Parsai

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathaion the equitable distribution of resources and the importance of civil society groups in good governance.

 (Photo: S. Cuprammonium)
Wangari Maathai: "When privatisation of resources that are vital for life happens, it will undermine our food security and livelihoods. Corporations are now telling us what kind of food to eat."

On the first day of her first visit to India, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Muta Maathai had a busy schedule. She called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The former 60-plus Kenyan Assistant Minister addressed women engaged in saving indigenous seeds at Navdanya and delivered a lecture at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. In between she found the time to speak to The Hindu. Excerpts:

What finally brought you to India?

I am here on the invitation of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to deliver memorial lectures on linkages between environment, governance, and peace.

This is to say that...

This is to say that in giving the Nobel Peace Prize to me the Nobel Prize Committee prioritised environment and biodiversity. It gave the message that it was important to manage our resources in a responsible way and to share them equitably in order to pre-empt the root cause of conflict and war. If you look at many wars, be it regional or international, they are over access and control to resources. Those who are denied, discriminated against and marginalised are trying to seek justice through whatever means ­ you may call them terrorists, thieves or militants... If we want to live in a peaceful world, we must add issues of resource management, governance and equity which are important ingredients for peace.

In this context there is a controversy in India over setting up Special Economic Zones on farmlands.

At the moment in my own country we are shooting people because we suspect them to be thieves. That is to me a violation of human rights. People who feel aggrieved, marginalised have a right to be listened to. They cannot be stopped or oppressed because they are poor. Sometimes governments have to make difficult decisions for the benefit of the country. But too often we make decisions that are expedient because we do not want to make the difficult decisions of protecting the weak and the vulnerable from the powerful. That is everywhere.

You are now working on protecting indigenous seeds?

One of our most important resources is seeds because all of us need to eat. India is an old civilisation and has developed seeds for thousands of years. Suddenly laws are being changed and corporations are working hard to ensure that they have control over resources so that those who cannot pay have to die. In India farmers are dying because the seeds they were used to are not available. When privatisation of resources that are vital for life happens, it will undermine our food security and livelihoods. Corporations are now telling us what kind of food to eat, whereas in my constituency, Tetu, doctors are now telling HIV/AIDS patients to go back to indigenous foods to improve their immune system.

What is the common problem developing countries face today?

The biggest challenge developing countries face is to have the capacity to deal with the competition they get from the developed world because it tends to force its political agenda on the developing countries. And because these developing countries need these developed countries they give in or they have to face sanctions in research, military power, and in the capacity to access and control resources.

Do you feel globalisation is marginalising women?

Globalisation will marginalise anybody who cannot compete especially people who are poor and do not have the skills and knowledge, the majority of who may be women.

As a leader of the Green Party you contested elections and joined the National Rainbow Coalition Government led by President Mwai Kibaki in 2003. Then you resigned your position as an Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources. What difference did you bring to governance?

Today we are caught in a development paradigm that is causing de-development, going backwards. We, on our part, focussed on the issues of growing trees, saving indigenous seeds, producing nutritious foods, rainwater harvesting, and against privatisation of natural resources. It was due to our efforts that 2.5 per cent of the national revenue was sent directly to villages for development. Later I resigned to bring together two warring groups in this 15-party coalition.

Will you contest the coming elections in July?

I don't know. My hands are full. It is too early to decide.

Do you think civil society groups can be effective outside or by joining the government?

It is important for individuals in social movements who feel they can make contributions to decide on their own. As a social activist, you can only critique. As a member of the government you can make changes and bring laws that can make a difference.

Those who have interest, passion and conviction should become part of governance.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has recognised two grassroots individuals in quick succession ­ you in 2004, and Mohammad Yunus of Bangladesh in 2006. What is the message?

The message coming out of the Nobel panel is that we cannot have peace in a world where there is inequality, poverty that is ignored by those who can do something. We must have socio-economic justice and we must manage resources responsibly and share them.