New Delhi: On World Environment Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the country is moving ahead with a “very clear roadmap” to protect the environment and tackle climate change while also striking a balance between the present and future needs of people. Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav also called for climate justice and differentiated responsibilities in tackling climate change.
The ministers were speaking at the event held to mark World Environment Day on Monday, June 5, in New Delhi. Yadav also launched the Amrit Dharohar Implementation Strategy at the event, which aims to protect the existing 75 Ramsar sites — wetlands of international importance — in the country, and MISHTI, a programme for mangrove conservation.
The remarks by the Prime Minister come at a time when government agencies and departments have cracked down on organisations and individuals, including environmental lawyers, for their work towards protecting the environment. On the same day that Yadav talked about climate justice, Indian-origin US presidential candidate, Nikki Haley, said that India and China should be “confronted” because they are one of the “biggest polluters”.
Ban on single-use plastic, “clear roadmap”
This year’s environment day theme is freedom from single-use plastic. What the world is doing now is something that India has been working continuously on for the past four to five years, claimed PM Modi. In 2018 itself, India, to free itself from single-use plastic, had begun work on two fronts, he said. One was banning single use plastics and the other was to make plastic waste processing mandatory. Due to this, it has become compulsory to recycle nearly 30 lakh tonnes of plastic packaging.
“Today, to protect the environment and [tackle/address] climate change, India is moving forward with a very clear roadmap,” Modi said in a virtual address relayed during the event.
India has struck a balance between “present requirements and future vision”, Modi further said. Over the past nine years, India has focused on clean and green energy, whether it is solar power, or ensuring that LED bulbs reach as many houses as possible. This has not only saved money for the poor but also saved the environment. India initiated Mission Green Hydrogen; and to save soil and water from chemical fertilisers, India took big steps towards natural farming, the PM said.
The Amrit Dharohar Implementation Strategy (for the conservation of India’s Ramsar sites, and to promote eco-tourism here that will produce green jobs) and the MISHTI programme which aims to revive, restore and protect India’s coastal mangrove systems, keep India’s green future and green economy in mind, he said.
The Union environment minister inaugurated the Amrit Dharohar Implementation Strategy at the event. The strategy aims to conserve wetlands species and habitats, create opportunities for nature tourism, enhance wetland livelihoods and maintain and enhance wetlands as a carbon sink, per the ministry. It was announced as part of this year’s budget announcement and aims to conserve and develop existing Ramsar sites including increasing their ecotourism potential.
The minister also launched the five-year MISHTI (Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats and Tangible Incomes) programme. As per the ministry, the programme aims to enhance the resilience of the Indian coast against the impacts of climate change including sea level rises and ensure the protection of coastal life and livelihoods.
To protect the world’s climate countries should rise above their selfish needs alone, he said. As a result of such thought, some of the most modern nations may have achieved development but the entire world’s climate has suffered as a result, he said. Many poor and developing countries are reaping these consequences, he said. India has raised the issue of climate justice before these nations, he said.
Yadav also alluded to climate justice in his speech during the event. India is contributing constructively to a zero draft at the ongoing intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) to end plastic pollution in Paris, Yadav added during his speech at the event. This should be guided by the Rio Declaration (on Environment and Development, adopted in 1992 which says that the right to development must be equitable and take into account development and the environment). It is important to consider common but differentiated responsibilities as well as national circumstances and capabilities, he added. India’s carbon emissions are only 4% of the world’s while it is 60% for developed countries, he claimed.
Meanwhile, while India’s ministers called for climate justice, US presidential candidate of Indian origin Nikki Haley tweeted that if they want to be serious about saving the environment, they should “confront” India and China because they are “some of the biggest polluters”.
If we want to be serious about saving the environment, we need to confront India and China. They are some of the biggest polluters.
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) June 5, 2023
Mission LiFE and more
India now is giving as much attention to “economy” as it is to “ecology”, the PM claimed. While it is focusing on infrastructure, it is also giving as much focus to the environment too, he said. While expanding 4G and 5G connectivity, India has also increased its forest cover, he claimed. India has seen a record rise in the number of wildlife sanctuaries and parks while it has also built 4 crore houses for the poor, he said.
The Jal Jeevan Mission is ongoing on one hand, and India is also working towards improving water security, he added. India is among the top five nations in renewable energy, he said. Ethanol blending of fuel has begun, and India has launched the International Big Cat Alliance too. Mission LiFE – Lifestyle for Environment, a programme that India has included as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution as part of the Paris Agreement, which aims to address climate change by changing individual consumption patterns – has become a public movement, a jan andolan, worldwide, he claimed.
Last year, on environment day, he had made a request that people share innovative ideas that are measurable and scalable to bring about “climate-friendly behavioural change”. Researchers, students, citizens and domain experts from nearly 70 nations have done so, Modi claimed. (The Ministry announced that the NITI Aayog had received these letters and ideas.) Thought leadership for LiFE is also ongoing; hence our green growth will be stronger, he said.
However, several moves taken by the Union government contradict the PM’s claims of ecological conservation and environmental protection. The remarks by the Prime Minister come at a time when government agencies and departments have cracked down on organisations and individuals, including environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta, for their work towards protecting the environment.
Experts have noted how the Forest Conservation Act Amendment Bill which was presented in the Lok Sabha in March this year will exempt many forest tracts from the ambit of the Act and make them vulnerable to developmental projects on the pretext of grounds including strategic ones. The international transhipment terminal in the Great Nicobar Island for instance, which the Union government is pushing forward, threatens the islands’ indigenous people and natural wealth (from coral reefs along the coast to the nesting sites of the endemic Nicobar megapode and leatherback turtles).
Forests within 100 km of international borders or the Line of Control will no longer require any forest clearance to construct highways, hydel power projects, wrote journalist and environmental activist Prerna Singh Bindra, a former member of the National Board for Wildlife.