Eco-colonialism? Bibhuti Bhushan Mitra


It is very clear that colonialisation bears some specific objectives that may be getting cheap raw materials, cheap labour and a captive market for product manufacturing. Here I have used the term eco-colonialism that means the colonialisation which is a growth to the exploitation of ecology. But how colonialisation damage the ecology?

Colonialisation often changes diversified food production into a single crop for the colonizer’s market. For example, rice farming was once common in Gambia but with colonial rule so much of the best land was taken over by groundnuts for the European market that rice had to be imported to counter the mounting prospect of famine. Colonialism even forces peasants to replace food crops with cash crops.

Though the third world countries have achieved independence but they want to develop in the context of modernisation. Vandana Shiva says this is male development. As a result of single crop production or monoculture or modern development, biodiversity has decreased day by day.

For example, in Europe 80 percent of all farm lands are sown with just four crops. In Netherlands a single potato variety covers 80 percent of potato growing land; three wheat varieties cover 90 percent of wheat growing land. In UK three varieties of potatoes make up 68 percent of the crop, one variety makes up the remaining 32 percent. In Greece, wheat diversity has declined by 95 percent. In India under the impact of green revolution, rice varieties cultivated decreased from more than 1,00,000 to 10 and in Sri Lanka 2000 varieties of rice were cultivated in 1959 but only five major varieties today.

Globalisation has accelerated the biodiversity destruction also. It turns all forests and farms into industrial monocultures which destroy both biodiversity and cultural diversity of local communities.

In Bangladesh not only agricultural discourse but also “The Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) Order of 1973,” “The Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) (Amendment) Act of 1974,” “The Forest Act of 1927,” “The Private Forest Order of 1959″ subtly indicate the colonial legacy.

A great example this is the so-called eco-park. There are Modhupur eco-park project in Tangail district, eco-park in Moulovibazar of Sylhet, Alutilla eco-park of Khagrachhari. At first site we assume that eco-tourism makes our country developed by earning money. But we overlook such tourism as may be damaging to the natural resources. We can give example of a colonial management. In Belize, eco-tourism increasingly mean eco-colonialism, damaged coral reefs and rainforest. Two decades after it own independence from Britain, Belize found itself yoked to another kind of colonial enterprise, the foreign dominated eco-tourism trade.

With a small population of 2,50,000 spread over 9000 square miles of coastline, mountain and lush forests, Belize has so far managed to avoid the uncontrolled development that dominates so much of Central America. Today close to 70 percent of the country is still covered by native forest.

So we can say with Vandana Shiva “they threaten to create a new era of bio-imperialism, built on the biological impoverishment of the third world and the biosphere. Patents, industrialisation of food and agriculture, globalisation of trade are the new mechanisms, leaving the third world poorer both ecologically and economically.”

(it was first published in the daily star) Bibhuti Bhushan Mitra is an Phd Researcher, Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University and online Journalist – samakal

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