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When former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev waited nineteen days before issuing a statement about the Chernobyl disaster, he made a decision that condemned tens of thousands of citizens to certain death. Although "merely" a decision not to provide information, it constituted a flagrant violation of the most basic of human rights. An abuse of a somewhat different nature occurred in India when the government developed the Sardar Sarovar dam and irrigation projects. In failing to appraise the environmental impact or resettlement needs that the projects would create, the Indian government ignored the inevitable consequences of displacing thousands of people from their homes. An assessment for the World Bank later labeled the decision to build the dam a human rights violation. As these examples indicate, we live in an era in which humankind's control over the environment is of such magnitude that the sharp distinction between human rights and environmental protection has ceased to exist. Recognition of this reality provided the impetus for the symposium entitled Earth Rights and Responsibilities: Human Rights and Environmental Protection.

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