Agenda for 2019

By Chandra Bhushan
Wednesday 30 January 2019

In 2018, some major policies and programmes were unveiled in India. At the international level also, two major agreements got under- way—the Rulebook for the Paris Agreement was adopted and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol came into effect on January 1, 2019. The agenda for 2019 is clear cut: we have to set up the institutional and regulatory framework to implement the major programmes and fulfil our international obligations. Here’s my list of the top environmental priorities for 2019.

National Clear Air Programme: Our piecemeal approach to tackle air pollution must give way to the implementation of a comprehensive and integrated action plan. The National Clean Air Programme, under which more than 100 cities have to develop and implement clean air plans, must be institutionalised for effective enforcement. Without strict enforcement, all the other measures will fail.

Single-use plastics: The pledge to ban all single-use plastics by 2022 must be put into action. At present, different states have interpreted the term “single-use plastics” differently. A national definition backed up by a comprehensive plan, including the promotion of alternatives, should be put in place.

Swachh Bharat Mission: Governments come and governments go, but successful programmes must continue. The Swachh Bharat Mission is one such programme. This year, solid waste management must be strengthened to make it sustainable.

National and State Action Plan on Climate Change: In 2008, the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) were adopted. The outcome has been mixed. While the National Solar Mission and the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency has done very well, other missions under NAPCC have not progressed as expected. The SAPCCS too have not progressed beyond documentation. It is time we revisit NAPCC and SAPCC and develop a comprehensive framework to decarbonise our economy and adapt to the changing climate. One thing we must ensure is that the division of responsibilities between the Centre and states is well defined. Currently, only Central government is responsible for cutting emissions. This must change.

National Forest Policy and Act: The draft National Forest Policy, 2018, fails to join the dots. In addition, the environment ministry has also started the process of amending the Indian Forest Act, 1927. It is imperative we get both of them right. India needs forest regulations that recognise the role and the potential of people to grow, manage, protect and use forests sustainably. For this, the forest department must shed its colonial hangover and become facilitators in community-managed forests.

National River Revitalisation Plan: It is not just Ganga that is polluted; all major and minor rivers are in the grip of pollution because of unsustainable withdrawal of water and untreated disposal of wastes. From the Cauvery to Godavari, and from the Sutlej to the Yamuna, all rivers need a revitalisation plan. Let 2019 be the year in which we unveil the National River Revitalisation Plan.

Pollution Control Boards: Pollution control boards (PCBS) are ineffective, corrupt and getting archaic with every passing year. They are not designed to regulate, monitor and enforce the pollution challenges of the 21st century. We cannot do without a frontline environment regulatory authority. It is time we reinvent PCBS and build their capacity for effective monitoring and enforcement.

Indian Farmers Are Building Food Forests to Fight Climate Change, Agrarian Crisis

Published on 30-01-2019

Villupuram, Tamil Nadu: While Amazon rainforests remain the world’s largest intact forest, according to recent research, the seemingly untouched forests were in fact manmade food forests. For thousands of years, humans were dependent on forests for food. In time, villages and farms replaced forests.

However, unprecedented climate change is causing a rethink on the way we grow our food. More and more farmers in India are looking at resilient food forests to sustain themselves, with reduced irrigation needs and improved productivity – and to help the country through the current agrarian crisis. Read more

Building institutional foundations for community forest management

By Rucha Ghate, Harini Nagendra
Tuesday 29 January 2019

“After our village institution is eroded, you want us to take care of forests?” This statement by a village elder from a tribal village in Gadchiroli poses a fundamental question — how do we protect and restore our forests and our local institutions, in a time of great change?

The effects of climate change are clear and visible. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report warns that the world is 1.2°C warmer compared to pre-industrial levels. These impacts will only become stronger in the coming decades. Read more

Environment vs Employment: Anger, Suspicion Run Wild in Thoothukudi Amid Wait for Sterlite Order

Environment vs Employment: Anger, Suspicion Run Wild in Thoothukudi Amid Wait for Sterlite Order

Thoothukudi: A schism exists in Thoothukudi that manifests every Monday morning outside the district collector’s office.

Dubbed Petition Day, Monday is when people, both for and against Vedanta-owned Sterlite Copper, crowd the district administration offices to file petitions. Armed with placards and banners, one group puts up spirited shows on how the plant was feeding off the locals while polluting their surroundings. Another group stages a counter protest in favour of a huge job source banished from town by external conspiratorial forces. Among the audience are police personnel, keeping watch lest things get out of hand. Read more

Airpocalypse: 241 Indian cities highly polluted; 139 violating air quality norms not included in NCAP

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) launched the five-year action plan earlier this month to reduce air pollution by 30 per cent by 2024, with 2017 as base year.

Over 130 highly polluted cities violating the national air quality standards have been left out of the recently launched National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), a new study has revealed. A Greenpeace India report, which identified 139 cities where air pollution level exceeds national standards, said the NCAP is based on limited data from 2011-2015 and that’s why a large number of highly polluted cities have been kept out of its purview. Read more

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