Top
Millennium Post

Politicising environment

Politicising environment

The ways in which the environment is exploited while catering to civilisational needs and wants is uncountable. From rocks to riverbeds, groundwater to oil, coasts to alpine forests, water to air, deep-earth mining to depleting ozone layer in the lower stratosphere, the cumulative impact has brought us to the days where Environment concerns & Climate Change have become a regular feature of social discussions. While adhering to the norms of Paris Agreement, which aims at limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, India, a developing nation, has numerous other environmental commitments that it must take to ensure a green future. With our capital being the most polluted in the world, the commitment to directing efforts towards protecting our environment is non-negotiable. The dystopian sky that Delhi has witnessed on two separate occasions stands as a glaring example of how, through uncontrolled progress, we are digging our own graves. But air is not the only issue. Depleting forest cover, polluted rivers, fragile river banks and coasts, poor waste management, et al, all add to our environmental concerns. While the present dispensation has taken prodigious steps to enhance the country's infrastructure, it has not taken any concrete step to protect the environment or improve its gradually deteriorating trend. Significant increase in clearances to development projects inside wildlife protected areas bypassing necessary impact studies, from 260 in 2009-13 (under UPA) to 519 in 2014 – 18 (BJP phase), along with proposed policy changes – new forest policy and Coastal Regulation Zone notification that will allow corporate entities to take over land, forest, coast, water – do not augur well for the environment. Development at the cost of environment is a disastrous equation and its implementation will cost us tremendously - though very few realise it. Activists, environmentalists, experts on climate, etc., have been vocal about such intrusion into nature's boundaries and yet they never make it to the desk of political parties as they rally around the country prior to elections. While conveying their so-called vision to the masses, their focus mainly revolves around the immediate societal needs and issues that will enable them to garner votes. Blaming just the political parties here is also wrong. These parties come up with sops and promises that comprise of prevalent issues which are mainly because of our discontent. Agrarian distress, unemployment, etc., are all prime poll agendas which have been conveyed to these parties by no one but us through our dissent. In the same way, should we advocate our displeasure at the way environment is being exploited manifold, the chances of it being picked up by them are far more. Hence, the blame is partially on us as well. Delhi has been clearly the victim of air pollution which sparked the AAP government to come up with the ambitious odd-even rule to half the number of cars on the capital's roads and ensure comparatively fewer car-emissions – prime contributor to air pollution. But, even that did not prevent the second spell of hazardous air quality, following which the Graded Response Action Plan was drafted to combat air pollution in severe cases. While GRAP restores the hope of clean air, it is an emergency plan – a cure. How long can or should we rely on emergency plans, especially when all our lives we have heard the age-old saying that 'prevention is better than cure'?

Recently, Congress in its manifesto for Lok Sabha polls included the environment. It recognised air pollution as a public health emergency. Congress promises to constitute, by law, an independent, empowered, and transparent Environment Protection Authority to establish, monitor and enforce environmental standards and regulations. At the same time, Congress plans on defending and advancing India's interests in international negotiations on Climate Change and environment. Further, they promise to strengthen the National Clean Air Programme launched by Modi government to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30 per cent in at least 102 cities, including Delhi, by 2024. Congress's mention of all the relevant environmental concerns in its manifesto definitely earns them brownie points over rivals, however, attracts criticism from experts over superficial promises due to lack of detail. It may enjoy the benefit of this doubt to the extent till it forms a government, should it win. Manifestos are a book of promises and as such the implementation part is where the entire picture changes. BJP's grand promises and their lacklustre implementation is a testament to this realisation. While the voters may acknowledge the fact that Congress has included the environment in its manifesto when others haven't – making them unique as of now, they are wary of the fact that it is the implementation of the promises that holds the key to progress and welfare. Mere promises are nothing but empty rhetorics aimed at amassing votes in a contest where everyone wants to run the country.

Next Story
Share it