James Cameron, director of sci-fi blockbuster Avatar, finds himself embroiled in the controversy surrounding Lavasa, India's first “private hill city” that has been in the news for alleged environmental law violations.
Mr. Cameron, who is slated to speak at the big-ticket ‘Innovation and Knowledge' (INK) conference being held in association with Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) between December 9 and 12 at Lavasa, has been urged to boycott the event.
In a petition to Mr. Cameron, non-profit conservation group The Shola Trust said it was “surprised” that he was attending the event at Lavasa “given [his] commitment to indigenous people's rights in the face of the indiscriminate global ‘development' onslaught.”
Lavasa, a Hindustan Construction Company group company, has been criticised for displacing tribal villages during land acquisition for the project. “Your film was indeed a revolutionary piece of work. In addition to the powerful and moving visuals, the underlying message — the war being waged today between indigenous people and the rest of the world — was very relevant,” the petition stated. Avatar, written and directed by Mr. Cameron, follows the struggle of an extraterrestrial Na'vi tribe against humans bent on plundering their land for minerals.
The construction of Lavasa city has resulted in the direct displacement of a large number of indigenous people who once called it home, said the petition, which has a growing list of signatories. “Issues of social and environmental justice are normally beyond the scope of most celebrity and entrepreneur speakers with good ideas, but given your track record … we hope you will reconsider your visit to Lavasa.”