GURGAON, India — In this city that barely existed two decades ago, there are 26 shopping malls, seven golf courses and luxury shops selling Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs shimmer in automobile showrooms. Apartment towers are sprouting like concrete weeds, and a futuristic commercial hub called Cyber City houses many of the world’s most respected corporations.
Gurgaon, located about 15 miles south of the national capital, New Delhi, would seem to have everything, except consider what it does not have: a functioning citywide sewer or drainage system; reliable electricity or water; and public sidewalks, adequate parking, decent roads or any citywide system of public transportation. Garbage is still regularly tossed in empty lots by the side of the road.
With its shiny buildings and galloping economy, Gurgaon is often portrayed as a symbol of a rising “new” India, yet it also represents a riddle at the heart of India’s rapid growth: how can a new city become an international economic engine without basic public services? How can a huge country flirt with double-digit growth despite widespread corruption, inefficiency and governmental dysfunction?
In India, Dynamism Wrestles with Dysfunction
Energy poverty is defined as having little or no access to electricity and relying on fossil fuels for daily activities, such as cooking and lighting. When most people think poverty, they think of malnutrition, world hunger, lack of access to clean water, and an array of other social problems involving poverty, but usually not involving energy. Rural villagers who suffer from energy poverty are actually taking the biggest hit of all forms of poverty. The number one killer of children under the age of five is pneumonia. It's not water-borne diseases, AIDS, or any other seemingly obvious reason. Millions of children are dying every year from the basic necessity of light--every 20 seconds to be exact.
Using kerosene lamps for lighting and cooking with cow dung release toxic emissions that are directly linked to eye infections, lower respiration infections, and lung cancer. Inhaling the emissions of a kerosene lamp is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes in a single day, which can probably explain why two-thirds of lung cancer victims that are actually non-smokers. A single kerosene lamp emits one ton of carbon dioxide over the course of five years (or the equivalent from driving your car from Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington); and in total, all kerosene lamps combined release 144 million tons of carbon emissions into atmosphere each year.
Energy Poverty: India's Best-Kept Secret
Land is life. It is the basis of livelihoods for peasants and indigenous people across the Third World and is also becoming the most vital asset in the global economy. As the resource demands of globalisation increase, land has emerged as a key source of conflict. In India, 65 per cent of people are dependent on land. At the same time a global economy, driven by speculative finance and limitless consumerism, wants the land for mining and for industry, for towns, highways, and biofuel plantations. The speculative economy of global finance is hundreds of times larger than the value of real goods and services produced in the world.
Financial capital is hungry for investments and returns on investments. It must commodify everything on the planet - land and water, plants and genes, microbes and mammals. The commodification of land is fuelling the corporate land grab in India, both through the creation of Special Economic Zones and through foreign direct investment in real estate.
Land, for most people in the world, is Terra Madre, Mother Earth, Bhoomi, Dharti Ma. The land is people's identity; it is the ground of culture and economy. The bond with the land is a bond with Bhoomi, our Earth; 75 per cent of the people in the Third World live on the land and are supported by the land. The Earth is the biggest employer on the planet: 75 per cent of the wealth of the people of the global south is in land.
Colonisation was based on the violent takeover of land. And now, globalisation as recolonisation is leading to a massive land grab in India, in Africa, in Latin America. Land is being grabbed for speculative investment, for speculative urban sprawl, for mines and factories, for highways and expressways. Land is being grabbed from farmers after trapping them in debt and pushing them to suicide.
The Great Land Grab: India's War on Farmers
In a report, the Oakland Institute said hedge funds and other foreign firms had acquired large swathes of African land, often without proper contracts.
It said the acquisitions had displaced millions of small farmers.
Foreign firms farm the land to consolidate their hold over global food markets, the report said.
They also use land to "make room" for export commodities such as biofuels and cut flowers.
"This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat than terrorism," the report said.
The Oakland Institute said it released its findings after studying land deals in Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Mali and Mozambique.
It said hedge funds and other speculators had, in 2009 alone, bought or leased nearly 60m hectares of land in Africa - an area the size of France.
"The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial manoeuvres are now doing the same with the world's food supply," the report said.
Hedge funds 'grabbing land' in Africa