Saturday, March 22, 2014


Economic development has been the byword in our Country’s progress in the competitive global market of the 21 st century. But the country is paying an enormous price for much hyped progress which has brought in its wake ecological devastation and numerous health problems, particularly to the vulnerable sections of the society.
Water quality degradation results in the highest health toll accounting for health costs worth thousands of Crores of Rupees a year. In all most all our cities, Air Pollution levels exceed WHO recommended health standards. The levels are getting worse year by year, because of ever increasing urban population, inadequate public transportation, growing number of automobiles, high energy consumption &unbridled industrialization.
Despite all the Acts, Regulatory Agencies and enormous expenditure incurred, none of our Rivers&Lakes are nowhere near becoming clean. Water treatment & supply systems for urban drinking water, not to talk of the most neglected rural water supply systems, are still so rudimentary and inadequate even to get rid of bacteriological contamination. Even the bottled water marketed by some of the multinationals, is not entirely free from chemical contamination. Hard to imagine the chemical contamination levels of the drinking water supplied to Urban (India) and Rural (Bharat) communities.
The World Bank study in 1997 revealed that the largest share of the country’s economic costs of health & environmental degradation emerged from growing pollution of Water and Air, amounting to Rs.24,500 crores a year. Yet the finance minister had proclaimed that the country’s economic growth rate for the previous year was around 4%, ignoring the fact that the development had come at the cost of extensive environmental damage and high health costs to the people. The cost of Environmental Degradation, which was estimated to be around 4.5 % of GDP in 1992, makes the growth rate negative in real terms. Do we still call this Development / Growth, if so for Whom?
While the political leaders mouthed their rhetoric on Environmental Pollution Control and the lethargic populace slumbered in ignorance and indifference, our Air got dirtier and harmful to breath, our Water got polluted and unsafe to drink and our Land got contaminated and unsuitable for growing food items. The years of inaction is taking their toll. The Environment will continue to be a Non-Issue to the Politicians, making the bureaucrats insensitive & unresponsive to environmental issues, as long as the Voters do not assert themselves and make “Environment an Election Issue”.
National Level Issues
Some of the “Green Manifesto” issues to be considered by all the Political Parties as part of their “Election Manifesto 2014” are listed below:
1)The development of oil intensive automobile–centered Transportation System based on National Highway network is not a viable alternative, to well established energy efficient Railway Network and will not make “India Shine” on a sustainable basis. Rail Transportation should take precedence over Road Transportation for long distance haulage. The Personalized Motor transportation to be made expensive and high priority to be given to clean, affordable and functional PUBLIC Transportation systems. The recommendation to scrap Commercial vehicles of over 15 years be implemented, as the use of fuels like Diesel becomes very inefficient leading to higher loads of Air Pollution. The Coastal Shipping & Inland-water transportation to be given higher priority in the Planning and Budget allocations.
2) As the “Energy Efficiency” is the fastest growing source of energy, at the least cost, the thrust and focus should be on “Energy Conservation”. To Encourage /Reward energy efficiency improvement rather than adding capacities at lower efficiencies.
3) Priority to be given for the use of energy from Renewable Sources (Not Nuclear),such as Solar PV & Thermal, Wind etc, instead of opting for new capacities based on Fossil Fuels, most of which being imported and likely to be depleted in not too distant a future. At least 20% of the total Electrical Energy requirements from Renewable Sources to be targeted by 2020.
4)The Acts and Laws for protection of Water Bodies- Rivers, Lakes etc -must be reviewed and strengthened for their strict implementation, with fast and stringent punishment for violations. The higher priority is to be given for decentralized Sewage Collection, Treatment and Disposal for ensuring accountability and to facilitate recycling of treated waters.
5) The strict implementation of “MSW Rules 2000” issued in compliance with Supreme Court Directive, regarding Collection, Transportation and Treatment / Disposal of Municipal Solid Waste be ensured in a given time frame
6) As Pollution Control Boards do not cover the environmental damage caused by agriculture run-off, aquaculture and many such activities, Central and State Pollution Control Boards should be reconstituted by a suitable Act of the Parliament, as "Environment Protection Authorities (EPAs)" at National and State levels, so as to cover all aspects of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, instead of confining to Water & Air Acts only
7) At present Central and State Pollution Control Boards, more or less function like the departments of respective governments. As a result they tend to bend backwards at times, to oblige unreasonable requests of their political bosses and superior officers. Also, they feel hesitant to initiate penal action against offending government agencies or departments. Their helplessness or inaction can be gauged from the number of interventions of the judiciary in the recent past. Therefore EPA should be made autonomous like Election Commission, CVC etc so as to ensure effective environmental protection and sustainable development by stringent enforcement of the Acts, Rules etc in force.
8)The Ministry of Environment be de-linked from Ministry of Forests and attached with Ministry of Science and Technology, if a separate Ministry cannot be formed. The Ministry should deal with policy matters only, leaving Regulation, Control, Monitoring etc to EPAs, in accordance with the Constitutional obligations and relevant Acts and Laws in force
9)Talking of environmental protection and pollution control in isolation, neglecting population growth control and land-use management, is nothing but chasing a mirage. Therefore for sustainable development, the National Policy for population growth control and well balanced Spatial Planning will have to be formulated and implemented as a forerunner
Which ever the party comes to power after the elections, will have to be answerable to the public, on the above and many more vital environmental issues adversely affecting their health and livelihood of people. The VOTER would like to know the views of different political parties, before HE or SHE decides to whom to vote to power.
Let us make “Environment Protection” the “Election Issue”
If We “NEGLECT NOW”, We will be Ignored for “NEXT 5 YEARS”