“Go to the ant, you lazy one; see its ways and become wise. Although it has no commander, officer or ruler, it prepares its food even in the summer; it has gathered its food supplies even in the harvest.”-Proverbs. Cooperation is making life, including human life, possible. Indeed, ants are models for cooperation. However, Humans often manifest a lack of cooperation with the natural world. Unlike animals, which are governed largely by instinct, people are influenced by a variety of factors, ranging from love and other wholesome qualities to hatred and greedy self – interest. Many fear the future of our planet, as this greediness seems to increasingly rule humans. This was what interested green minded folks to gather for deliberation recently here in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia has seen rapid economic progress ever since the demise of the last military junta. The prospects for sustainable development in the country are good.
The high clean energy potential, the plentiful water, the inherently fertile volcanic soils and the immense crop biodiversity predispose the country to sustainable economic growth.
Large scale investment schemes, by national and international investors, are today given high priority. Large areas of land are leased on which investors are expected to quickly start building infrastructures. Notwithstanding the legal prerequisite for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the impact on the environment is in reality not considered a matter of much concern.
In a two day workshop last October, Green Forum (GF2008) sought to answer lots of questions following the main topic: “environmental sustainability and/or economic growth?” Does an economic venture necessarily need to have priority over environmental sustainability? How can we grow the economy without degrading environment? Who shall pay the likely costs? Is it possible for people to live in harmony with nature?
There have been instances where the land allocated to investors is environmentally sensitive and the change in land use brings in major risks of environmental degradation, be it the water, soil or biodiversity. All livelihood sources for the local population as well as assets required in the economy would likely get in to jeopardy. Investment schemes impact on people’s health and well – being as a result of the pollution they cause, inefficient water management, destruction of ecosystem, and disruptions in local lifestyles.
Further destruction of the natural base threatens to throw millions in to deeper poverty.
Yet, most investors don’t appear cooperative for experts’ call for appropriate measures of the environment.
On the other hand, it is obvious that condominium houses development benefits the poor. This development is easing the poverty burden of low income earners and the disadvantaged inhabitants of Addis Ababa. It’s good even to see other towns’ similar intervention in regional states of the country. However, environment activists are getting sad with this development of condos with out taking environment issues into consideration. Developers deforest areas of condos. Due to this practice the environment is damaging seriously, indigenous trees, wild animals and birds wiped out. Condos development is affecting the ecosystem. This is a warning call to towns of regional states that didn’t start implementation.
In fact the economic expansion is a requirement in Ethiopia. However, the bold economic path that Ethiopia embarked on is based on exploitation of its natural resources. Floriculture, production of agro-fuels, tea and sugar plantations, mining . . . etc are a case in point. This economic activity presently providing quick returns, but will not last long if the environmental situation is not taken into consideration.
Once the ecosystem gets degraded, it’s not only this ecosystem that is affected, but neighbouring ecosystems as well. It puts the lives-and economy-of more people at risk.
It is because of this that experts call for investment projects, including large scale agriculture, to pass through Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process before implementation.
With a view of ensuring environmentally sustainable development, EIA is a method of identifying and analysing the potential impacts of a project on the environment. In his presentation on the EIA importance, Dr Asferachew Abate noted that its purpose is not to cancel projects which put pressure on the environment, but to predict negative impacts and take possible measures in a way that modify the project. The expert also highlighted the need for implementation of the legal and institutional framework for environmental regulation, saying EIA is a friend of development and investment.
The workshop participants indicated in their declaration that there should not necessarily be a contradiction between economic growth and environmental sustainability, as there are opportunities and potentials that allow growing economically and mitigating poverty, and at the same time protecting and upgrading the environment.
Dr TewoldeBirhan Gebreegziabher, the renowned Ethiopian environmentalist, on his part advises the country’s economic growth to remain in harmony with what the biosphere can give.
“The prospects for sustainable economic growth are good in Ethiopia if we continue to care for the environment and not only to get wealthy.”
According to him, limitless economic growth is impossible in this limited biosphere, a mere illusion. The recent global economic melt-down testifies to this fact, though other factors also have played their part, e.g. the failure of states to regulate their financial institutions, and the desire of people to live beyond their means.
As a result of poverty, neglect and mismanagement, Ethiopia’s environment is getting fragile. But not all hope is lost yet. Everybody can contribute its share in achieving something for the environment of Ethiopia.
Economic expansion is a requirement for Ethiopia. Its development endeavour must continue until poverty is eliminated.
Of course, business is more than a money machine. The value of investment is not only measured in monetary terms, since there are intangibles such as personal satisfaction, contribution to society, and relation ships in the community, all add to the perception of their investment’s value.
So the most important aspect of investment plan is to set priorities right, determine what should come first and what can be done later. Yes, investors should set the right priority for success-that benefits all.
That’s why green message advises respective institutions and investors to mind what they do. Investors should therefore be careful of their development intervention; they need to have cooperation with experts and communities. EIA would save costs that will be incurred in case of negative environmental costs.
Indeed, mutual support with respect to clean environment should therefore be seen at every level of the society. It is little wonder that the quotable observation of King Solomon of the bible chose ants as models for us to imitate. So let us remain to be cooperative with pertinent experts towards sustainable environment.