Editorial: Tackling Climate Change Has To Be On Political Agendas

Editorial: Tackling Climate Change Has To Be On Political Agendas

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Saturday, April 20, 2024, 04:11 AM IST
article-image
Representative Image | File/IANS

To those watching political parties over time, it is fascinating and instructive to see how they factor into their manifestos and election campaigns some of the popular issues of the time, irrespective of their own conviction and commitment to them. Environment and climate change are among these. Twenty-five years ago, in the 1999 election campaign, these barely made an appearance either in manifestos or on the campaign trail of the Bharatiya Janata Party which was then seeking another term in the office under the stewardship of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Its manifesto, rather dismissively, had only one paragraph on environment and no mention of climate change at all although it was foregrounded at international events and in national stories. Its 69-page manifesto for the 2024 election under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has three pages and makes tall promises about climate change policies. The Congress party’s manifesto, as that of other left-of-centre parties, have largely given more space to environmental issues over the past two decades. Of them all, the Congress seems most on track on this critical issue mentioning climate change back then.

But what does this display mean when there is a chasm between the talk and the walk? Under the Modi government, as reports have shown, environmental degradation and dilution of environment protection laws have become the norm. At a time that climate change is wreaking havoc around the country, differently in cities and villages, the government’s policies and push have been to mindlessly place economy and profit ahead of environmental concerns. Whether it is the Hasdeo Aranya in Chhattisgarh where the country’s preferred corporate, the Adani Group, has been permitted coal mining operations on forest land or Mumbai where building bye-laws have been brought in to ensure that every inch of open space can be used by the real estate lobby, the chasm is unmistakable. In the decade of 2014-24, as climate impacts intensified with more heat waves, floods, unseasonal rain and even a snowless winter in Kashmir, laws like the Coastal Regulation Zone and processes like the Environment Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment norms have been eased — not strengthened.

In the situation that India finds itself — battling heat and floods often in the same fortnight in different parts of the country — there should have been a firming up and deepening of environmental norms and laws in such a way that climate change is at the centre of decisions and its impact factored into every aspect of development, business and agriculture. India needs not one National Clean Air Programme or state Climate Action Plans, but every city and district needs a well-considered comprehensive plan on climate change. Environmental issues are no longer the domain of the wealthy or lifestyle-related; they affect millions of poor Indians and are deeply entwined with livelihoods. Studies have shown that nearly 310 million people live in low-elevation coastal areas around India, while another 360 million poor have few means to face climate impact and 1.77 million are homeless and literally at the mercy of the elements, according to the government’s data; nearly 80% of the country’s population lives in districts that are highly vulnerable to extreme weather events.

This is why the Supreme Court judgment interpreting climate effects as part of human rights is so significant. However, though SC foregrounded the issue well, other courts and governments barely take notice. The Bombay High Court refused to interfere with the permission granted to establish a greenfield port in Vadhavan in Dahanu, on Maharashtra’s coast, despite Dahanu being an ecologically sensitive zone. Tree cover has reduced in not only Mumbai but in several cities. Bengaluru’s lakes, long made dry, are the sites of massive IT and housing complexes. Chennai’s northern areas, where the poor live and struggle, have a poorer environment with higher air pollution and bad quality of water than others. Most cities have seen a massive jump in vehicle population which can only mean more emissions, but governments do little to encourage public transport. Tier 2 cities, booming in the wake of new capital, are only too happy to circumvent environmental norms and forget all about ecology in their quest for “development”.

The laws of nature do not bow to any political party or ideology. At the breaking point, irrespective of which party is in power and how popular the prime minister, when climate impact strikes it takes all in its wake.

RECENT STORIES

The Likely Changes In Iran In Post-Raisi Era

The Likely Changes In Iran In Post-Raisi Era

Amid Concerns Over EC's Inaction Against Hate Speeches During Election, People Remember TN Sheshan,...

Amid Concerns Over EC's Inaction Against Hate Speeches During Election, People Remember TN Sheshan,...

Election Commission’s Failure Is An Onslaught On Democracy

Election Commission’s Failure Is An Onslaught On Democracy

The Two Big Policies To Be Watched After Election Results

The Two Big Policies To Be Watched After Election Results

Editorial: An Act Of Faith, Now Betrayed?

Editorial: An Act Of Faith, Now Betrayed?