Aditya Vaibhav | The TrickyScribe: PM Narendra Damodardas Modi was awarded ‘UNEP Champions of the Earth’ award at a special ceremony in Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra, New Delhi, on Wednesday who dedicated this to the combined efforts of 1.2 billion Indians, describing this as a combined honour of all Indians. This comes close on the heels of his famous statement that International Solar Alliance could replace OPEC as the key global energy supplier in the future.
POINTS TO BE NOTED
PM Modi has been selected in the leadership category for his pioneering work in championing the International Solar Alliance and for his unprecedented pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in India by 2022. The annual ‘Champions of the Earth’ prize, announced on September 26, on the sidelines of 73rd UN General Assembly at New York City, will be presented by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. It is given to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment. The award shows his commitment to the cause.
DIPLOMATIC ONE UP
Global diplomats see this as a major one up for India as US President Donald Trump has time and again blamed both India and China for his decision last year to withdraw from the historic Paris Accord, saying the agreement was unfair as it would have made the United States pay for nations, which benefited the most from the deal.
It must be mentioned here that US President Trump in June last year announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris deal, arguing the accord would have cost America trillions of dollars, killed jobs and hindered the oil, gas, coal and manufacturing industries.
JUST A QUESTION!
Does mere forming an international league or announcing a pledge sans proper planning with no signs of its proper execution warrant an award of this stature? British statesman and former prime minister Winston Churchill who once famously said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”
STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH
Eminent environmentalists expressed mixed opinions on this! While some hold that the government is pushing for renewable energy like never before, others mourn that the rate of rejection of projects is almost as bad as his predecessors including Manmohan Singh with Jairam Ramesh at helms. Techie-turned-environmental crusader and coordinator, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Himanshu Thakkar remarked, “It’s a sign of the deeply Orwellian times that we are living in.”
DILUTED DUE DILIGENCE IN REGULATORY CLEARANCE PROCESSES
Conservationist Prerna Singh Bindra was candid while she being critical PM Modi’s policies for diluted due diligence in regulatory clearance processes for environment, forest and wildlife. She told The TrickyScribe from the UK that over 63 million Indians still don’t have access to potable water, river Yamuna has been polluted to the level of being ecologically dead and protected areas have been reduced to ‘paper parks’ as they continue to be decimated for highways and other projects. The worst catastrophe, arguably, she said, is the deadly air: India has 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities. Every third child in Delhi has irreversible lung damage and every third Indian dies prematurely due to poisonous air, according to the Centre for Science and Environment, she quoted.
INCREASING DEPENDENCY ON COAL-BASED THERMAL POWER PLANTS
Interestingly, India’s coal-based power capacity has increased by whopping 26 percent from 214 GW in March 2014 to 270 GW in March 2017. More such stations were commissioned since then including SJVN’s twin units of 660 MW each at village Chausa, Buxar, Bihar and THDC’s three units of 660 MW each at Khurja, Bulandshahar, Uttar Pradesh.
UNDERUTILISED NAMAMI GANGE FUNDS
Namami Gange funds are yet to be utilized on properly cleaning river Ganga despite the ouster of former minister Uma Bharti, who was stripped of the Ganga Rejuvenation portfolio during a cabinet reshuffle in September last apparently due to poor performance in her beat on grounds of non-performance. This has also failed to meet the expectations of those who celebrated the inclusion of Ganga Rejuvenation in the ministry’s name.
Experts are known to have criticized PM Modi for undermining environment in the last Budget that was described as a mere accounting exercise, in its presentation at least. And of course, an election-oriented one that provided no idea as to the performance of various schemes and measures supported in neither the last budget nor a clear rationale for current allocations and measures. Following a very traditional siloed approach, its elements spoke to various sustainable development goals. The budget also sought to provide water to all in about 500 cities but gave scant attention to the efficient management of scarce water resources in India’s speedingly drying cities. Several such examples can be found throughout the budget.