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Mainstream, VOL LX No 18, New Delhi, April 23, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, April 23, 2022

Friday 22 April 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, April 23, 2022

That climatic change and growing environmental stress must reshape state policy on land, water, forests, agriculture, transport, building rules, waste management and pollution control, sanitation, recycling, urbanisation and energy use at all levels have been a given for years but the inability of policymakers, corporates and society to change ways is all too visible. Economic development and industrial plans — infrastructure and mining projects at the cost of biodiversity and environment continue to circumvent the already diluted safeguards across India even in the schedule 5 areas [1]. As summer approaches every-year officials look to weather forecasts to figure if there will be a ‘good’ monsoon with sufficient ‘volume’ of rain, they do this since rainfall remains the main source of irrigation for commercial agriculture in a water-scarce India. There is little public debate about a non-water intensive more ecological agriculture. Findings from the recently released April 2022 IPCC Report states that humanity has only 3 more years to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Dramatic flash floods ravaged parts of South Africa and Brazil recently, there were spectacular floods in 2021 in Germany and Belgium all of these driven by climate change. Floods remain annual events in the states of Bihar and Assam so do cyclonic storms in Orissa and Bengal, but these are intensifying in fury. Our vulnerable citizens cope somehow and emergency evacuations happen every year but our infrastructure has mostly not been redesigned and rebuilt for long term climate resilience. Contracts for patchy piecemeal solutions concocted by paid consultants are handed to technocrats and builders to fix the problem. The builder-politician nexus continues to propose building multi-lane highways in ecologically sensitive zones and you name it. The Modi government showcases its successful multi-million toilets programme but no one asks the big question as to whether there is related ecologically sustainable public sanitation strategy as well. Most waste, including faecal matter is released untreated into rivers, lakes or left in the ground in an unsafe manner. Large number of our urban and rural habitats have no sewage lines or sewage treatment plants. Outskirts of our major cities have mountain high waste sites some repeatedly under fire and spewing smoke for years. There is little public debate on ecologically sustainable waste regulation and management, it is increasingly outsourced to big corporates and there is little transparency. There is growing pollution in the air, in the water and in the ground, increasingly pointed out as a cause for disease and death. The problem is huge but even in 2022 the programmes of our political parties and trade unions pay little head to the environmental question.

April 23, 2022 – HK

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