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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 47, New Delhi, November 6, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Nov 6, 2021

Friday 5 November 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, November 6, 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise announcement at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) UN conference in Glasgow, that India will achieve net-zero emissions of fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2070 and that it would generate 50% of its power from renewable energy by 2030 and so on. Before making such commitments to the world, no discussions on the subject were held in India’s Parliament or with political parties nor any public consultations in India that we know of. So what are these projections based on? India pushed its usual third worldist case of requiring those who have historically polluted to make the cut first and that it has the right to development. It is time questions are asked what kind of development? Our developmental experience of the past decades has had an environmentally destructive underside, which is hardly estimated in economic & social terms. India is counted as world’s third largest emitter of CO2. Yes, India’s population is still growing and future economic development will require energy on a big scale, but India has no coherent future energy policy that is ecologically sensitive. India’s energy production is heavily dependent on coal (70% of it), and on hydel and it is expanding both. Solar and wind power have grown in volume and are much cheaper than Nuclear power which remains a very marginal contributor. It is unwise to present hydropower or nuclear power as viable emissions-free and environmentally friendly energy options. Dams are major emitters of methane [1], a potent greenhouse gas, and also destroy biodiversity and ecosystems. Old habits die hard, India’s officials and its nuclear lobby seemed to be using climate negotiations to push for India’s seat in the Nuclear Suppliers Groups of countries with the same logic as going nuclear would get us a seat at the UN security council. All our transport runs on imported fossil fuels and coal generated electric power, and there is no realistic plan to curb these. How much of the government nationally or in the provinces runs on renewable energy. For all the marketing of smart cities by the Modi Government how many of those cities have an energy transition plan. Smart cities ought to concentrate on public transport, public health, water and energy conservation, efficient drainage, environmental norms etc, but we see little evidence of that. The giant defence sector mostly runs on fossil fuel, is there an environmentally sound transition plan?. We have very poor industrial safety record and can ill afford to continue the Nuclear route after Fukushima, besides it is prohibitive compared to all other energy sources.

India is already facing a severe climate crisis with severe floods, cyclones, water shortage, coastal erosion; it has among the world’s most toxic air. The National Clean Air Programme, or NCAP, launched in January 2019 to improve air quality in cities but it entirely remains on paper. A big sum of Rs 12,139 crore was earmarked for it but bulk of these funds remain unused. In every city and town pulmonary diseases and skin diseases are widely present and growing. A report published in The Lancet [2] estimated in 2019 there were 1.6 million deaths due to air pollution in India. There is a problem of water pollution in most of our rivers. Most environment protection rules, Forest Conservation Act, Coastal regulations, Environmental impact assessment rules are being diluted and rolled back and people protesting these are intimidated and rounded up [3]. By the way India refused to sign the Glasgow declaration by 100 countries on Forests and land use. Our man’s performance at the Glasgow show was good for image making internationally but the government has a dismal ecological record on our home front, because there is no accountability. Will the opposition stand up and draw up an energy transition map and an ecological regeneration plan

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Tributes:

Rajat Datta, the retired professor of History at Centre for Historical studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, who specialised on 18th Century Bengal passed away on October 30, 2021.

Barun Dasgupta, the senior journalist associated in the past with national papers like the Hindu, The Indian Express, Patriot, and with a long association with Mainstream, passed away in Kolkata on October 31, 2021. Barunda was on the editorial board of Mainstream and continued to write for us till very recently.

Subrata Mukherjee, West Bengal’s Minister of Panchayats passed away on Nov 4, 2021. He represented along with Priyaranjan Das Munshi and Soumen Mitra the rejuvenation of young congressmen in West Bengal in the late 1960s. An outpouring of grief in the streets of Calcutta demonstrates his hold on the public at large. It is also noteworthy that political leaders of different parties have expressed their sorrow at his demise, which shows he was respected in the same way as former Chief Ministers BC Roy and Jyoti Basu who were held in public esteem across the political spectrum.

We pay our tributes to the above figures

November 6, 2021 – HK


[3Last month so hundreds people from tribal villages in Hasdeo Arand forest area spanning Korba and Sarguja districts of Chhattisgarh marched to its capital to protest against a mining project that will affect their lives and livelihoods https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/tribal-villagers-walking-300-kms-to-save-lungs-of-chhattisgarh-from-coal-mining-551572.html

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