Human Rights vs. Environmental Rights

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Hareem Salman
Human Rights vs. Environmental Rights

Express newspaper (link below) reports the hot news of a family of lions being killed by eating donkey meat poisoned by nomads in Namibia. The report is very one-sided as it simply states that nomads killed a family of lions as revenge for killing thier donkey. The report uses terms such as 'tragedy' to describe the intensity of this occurence. 

However, if we look at this story in the light of the human-animal relationship in the Sunderbans, as described in the novel, The Hungry Tide, we can attain more insight into why Namibian nomads poisoned the lions. This novel also describes a similar case, where villagers set a tiger on fire after it kills their cattle. Piya, a Western marine biologist reacts very strongly to this inhumane action, which Kanai later responds to by asking her if these tigers would be allowed to claim  as many Amercian and Western lives as it was taking in India. This rhetorical question forces the reader to realize how certain human lives are given precedence over the environment while other are considered cheaper than it.

The obsession with megafauna (such as lions and other big animals) is a trait of big conservation projects, that take a very one-sided approach, aimed at saving grand species singularly while ignoring the larger ecosystem, including real life problems of poor residents of these areas where this wildlife grows and prospers. The wealthy and influential upper classes are almost never affected by the growth and sustenance of this wildlife, while the poor bear the brunt of conservation projects. 

The number of lions was growing as a result of Namibia's development of national parks for the preservation of wildlife. While this is to the benefit of the conservationists and the tourism industry, the locals' lifestyle is becoming increasingly endangered as the risk to their cattle, donkeys and to some extent, their own lives, has increased.

Another article, posted on (link below) expands upon how the donkey is a primary means of income for these nomads, and how the government does not recompensate them fully if their animals are killed by the lions. This article introduces us to the perspective of a common nomad on this situation.

From this case, we can draw that sometimes human rights are compromised by conserving the environment. However, at the same time, environmental rights (also a form of human rights) are threatened by the fulfilment of soem of these human rights. 

So, together both these articles raise an important question: does the preservation of environemtal rights encroach upon human rights, or vice versa?

1) Express news: