Congrats Mr Modi, our readers have an agenda for you

With Narendra Modi set to take oath today as India's Prime Minister, Down To Earth readers have a list of suggestions for him and his government on putting India on the right development track Reviving major rivers vital Vinodh Valluri  

Last Updated: Tuesday 25 August 2015

Here are some crisp action items the prospective government of Bharat can add to their agenda, whatever be their manifesto:

Water: This will be the most important issue for India in the coming decades. Restore the pristine water flow of major rivers, primarily the Ganga and the Yamuna, to at least 80 per cent of their pre-1960 levels. In addition, ensure via any monetary means possible that at least 80 per cent of ALL waste entering such natural water bodies is subject to complete treatment and purification.

Air: Focus on reversing urbanization trends, which are directly causative of increased local air pollution. Divest and remove any existing government subsidies to fossil fuel and automobile industries (they make enough money on their own already). Encourage urban gardening and protection of existing green spaces, both urban and rural, across the nation.

Land: Mandatory transparent and public discussions on allocation of forest and other resources to mining and other extraction services (both private and public). Recreate forests by enacting laws that levy HEAVY monetary punishments on companies that facilitate or actively engage in land grabs, greenwashing, or essentially irreparable damage to existing biodiversity.

Humans: Bribery and subversive actions that affect environmental and CSR activities should be punishable by permanent non-employability (personal) and permanent stock-market black-listing (organisations.) Protection and empowerment of rural, urban, and adivasi people who are affected directly or indirectly by economic and environmental degradation caused by industrial exploitation and subsequent social and environmental maladies (think Vedanta vs Orissa, or worse, Dow chem. vs Bhopal.)

Knowing Indian governments, this list should keep them sufficiently occupied for five years. There is still hope that the ongoing conversations on anti-corruption and climate change will together begin to repair the shameful state of socio-environmental affairs of Bharat.

Break government-corporate nexus
Anonymous reader

Ministries should do their job: This is probably too much to hope for, but an Indian government at least attempting to mitigate the extensive damage already done (mainly to forests, soil, rivers, and air, besides our seas) should scrutinise the Union ministries of environment & forests and water resources-ideally by setting up a special regulatory body and convening a heterogeneous group of advisors, the former of whom is responsible to ensure that these ministries simply do their job of protecting these natural resources. Also, the obvious measures need to be taken to control and tackle vehicular pollution.

Climate & environment: It is well known by now that no matter how well a developing country can do on its part, global environmental effects aren't isolated. From my world-view, I see that given India's important role in the global economy (if not politics), it should represent itself more strongly in the international scene to not only check its own standards but also push for the just implementation of environmental protocols by the big players, the US and China.

Holistic development: And where's development in all these, one may ask. It may be a blessing that an agricultural nation with diverse resources such as India is one of the worst affected by world environmental issues-given its power today and the pressing need to mitigate climate change effects, it can set an example for better holistic development by just doing its duties right.

In summary, up-to-date policies supported by science (no vested interests), regulatory bodies to ensure this and the implementation of the policies by the ministries, and strong representation in the UN. Underlying message: Dissolve the corporate-government nexus for natural resources!! Distant dream? This is where civil society participation is most needed. I believe these will help India revive its agriculture, develop a new sector of work around energy efficiency research, production, and distribution.
Possible? If the people organise, definitely yes.
People power!

Green the budget
Sowmithri V R
  1. Forest cover (vegetation, canopy cover) to be brought to 33 per cent on aggregate in every unit (block or range).
  2. Green budget on the lines of gender budget should be part of Union budget presented in Parliament.
  3. Coastal ecology needs a special fund and intervention.
  4. Urbanization will increase its speed, therefore, greening in housing, transportation, communication should be carried out.
  5. Dalit, tribal and women to have special focus as beneficiaries in green programmes.
  6. MGNREGA to focus on works with environmental benefits.
  7. Water (ground- and fresh-water) is key area for present and future. Ground water utilisation and recharge plans for urban areas, towns, rural areas need to be worked out with full infrastructure and complete budget allocation.
  8. River water and linkages need to be looked at.
  9. Pollution in agriculture, rural areas (sanitation, cooking,adulteration), urban areas and specific reduction strategies annually and decade projection to be arrived at.
  10. Empowerment of constitutional bodies like gram sabhas and gram panchyats.
  11. Department of natural resources management is need of the hour.
  12. Inclusion of special focus of vulnerable areas (red zones) to be given priority for inputs from all departments.
  13. Environment audits of major programmes on line of social audit of MGNREGA-Andhra Pradesh model may be looked into.
  14. Wild life management and conservation.
  15. Wetlands management.

Economy as part of ecology
Aniket Motale

On whatever level city advances in terms of development or economic activities, its health always depends on ecology; even developed countries now agree to this. And we expect our representatives should also be aware of the growth pattern we are following. We are just aspiring to become the next USA or China, which is simply not possible if we consider the natural resources those countries exploit. USA has 4 times land area than India has and 4-fold lesser population-they may afford the mindless exploitation of natural resources, but India can't.

According to me following principles should be considered while designing the development policies:
  1. Economy is a part of ecology and not vice-versa
  2. Ecology's needs are more important than human needs. Natural resources should be reserved for ecology's need or at least it should have higher priority.
  3. Most of the environmental organisations and individual ecology students are opposing river-linking project and privatisation of water. Rivers should be free-flowing, from origin to the end, natural flows and riverine ecosystems should be restored and conserved. Many developed countries are already doing so.
  4. Springs, rivers, hills and open areas in urban regions should be conserved in natural state and human development activities should be restricted in such areas.
  5. Forest department and other governmental environmental organisations should have ample funds availability for executing their responsibilities and for training and upgrading staff.
  6. Definition of word "ethical" should be broadened and projects which harm environment and ecology should be termed unethical.
  7. Urban area expansion, number of individual vehicles should be based upon study of availability of natural resources, carrying capacity. Accordingly, public transport systems should be promoted.
  8. All types of natural farming should be promoted. GM crops, chemical pesticides-insecticides and chemical fertilisers should be banned.
  9. Indigenous, native crops, millets should be promoted over cash crops.
  10. Mass decentralisation of energy generation distribution. Deployment of smart grids.
  11. Nature restoration should be included as government policy.
  12. Employment guarantee scheme should be designed around Nature restoration activities Nation-wide.
  13. Socially, environmentally and health-wise responsible entrepreneurship should be promoted in all ways.

Push wind energy
Dr A Jagadeesh,
  • Grow plants like agave, opuntia which are regenerative in waste lands in the country for biofuel and biogas power. This will bring in rural employment.
  • By replacing inefficient, old agricultural pumpsets with efficient ones by giving a subsidy, 30% electricity can be saved.
  • For captive consumption of electricity, wind electricity is probably the cheapest option.

Inclusive development
Tameemuddin Humble

Inclusive development should be ensured. All sections of the society should be given equal chance to take part in the national development process.

Right education
Legal literacy and health education should be given priority and should be included in the syllabus from primary classes.

Pradyumna Kumar Sahu

Gandhian way, the only way out
V S Tulpule

I feel change in mindset may be necessary to save the planet. It may be necessary to go backwards not to bullock cart age but some decades in some patterns of living.

India can take a lead, if we have not totally forgotten Gandhian philosophy of plain living & high thinking. Some lifestyle changes.

  1. Switch off coloured TVs & go back to B&W. Lot of electrical energy will be saved.
  2. Make a rule that odd numbered cars will ply only on odd dates & even numbered only on even dates. Considerable reduction in GHG emissions & traffic congestion.
  3. Restoring dignity of manual labour: every able bodied person should do some manual work to save electrical or fossil fuel energy. Efficient hand-operated washing machines can be designed for home use. Tree planting is another useful activity. Cleaning water bodies is another activity for young men & women. If we think on these lines we will be able to find many old practices which can be adopted with some modifications.
Most people will find such a life more meaningful. Job of the government should be to bring about a smooth transition.

How to achieve inclusive growth
Kewat Sanjay Kumar

Development perspective should highly inclusive, sustainable, with socio-economic, cultural, ecological human dimension. India has diverse agro-ecological zone, so geography- and culture-based developmental initiatives in the area of education, agriculture, forestry, industry should be given priority. For example, the hilly regions of western and eastern Himalaya, Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats, where enormous natural resources and biodiversity exist, green economy-based development such horticulture, forestry & agroforestry and eco-tourism should be promoted.

Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy and it is going to be more important in era of global change, so more focus and restructuring institutions and vibrant policy support is need of hour as we cannot compromise our food and nutritional security. Higher level of attention should be given to emerging issues of energy, water, accessibility to health sector, climate change, pollution, unemployment, distress migration from rural to urban areas, accessibility of market to small producers and research and development in higher education. Skill and capacity building of human resources, particularly in rural areas and also in urban areas, is urgently required.

We need to seriously deliberate on resource use efficiency and how to improve further with research and innovation domestically. Linking rural employment guarantee scheme with long term objective of sustainable livelihood development with natural resource management is urgently required.

Real development can only be realised through equity and benefit sharing.

Choose the sustainable route
Rita Krishan

In a globalised world not everything is in the control of any single national government. Can the incoming government be steered in a more sustainable direction in the face of pressures and vested interests? It is important to try.

National economic growth: what are the most technologically efficient examples of sustainable power generation which industrialists might be interested in manufacturing and which genuinely can be scale up to generate enough power for the nation - home and industry needs. Solar panels? Wind turbines? Things that work at volume. Could be a mix of different things. Industries that mature as existing power generating infrastructure ages. Also, with good quality control, develop products for export.

Infrastructure: When transport infrastructure is being developed, what weightage is given to the needs of sustainable modes? This may be more significant in urban areas. Good infrastructure for pedestrians is very often overlooked, but should be part of physical infrastructure design and delivery, as also bus infrastructure (generating more revenue as a whole). Metros are fantastic, but only a small part of the picture. Flyovers, while generating revenue (as other examples of infrastructure quoted above also do), lead to increased private car use and do help in decngestion. Also consider that pedestrian infrastructure should encourage walking - foot bridges, over three lanes of traffic are not good pedestrian infrastructure.

Forests: is there the potential to use more wood as a more sustainable primary material in medium-scale construction projects, moving away from concrete? Cross laminated timber, a material of great strength and versatility, using native softwoods from Finland and Austria is proving very versatile in constructing nine storey apartment blocks, with benefits of insulation in respect of noise and temperature. Do those benefits also translate to different climactic conditions, and could deodar be used and replanted, renewed in a similar way to softwood in Austria?

No FDI in retail: Maintain a hard line approach against FDI in retail. The homogeneous offerings of all the international chains has had a demonstrably bad effect on native varieties of fruit and vegetables in the UK and the US (they cease to be in cultivation). Other volume needs of mass retail adversely effect dairy producers. Only bad things result. Attention may need to be paid to quality control in local small retailers. Or it may be that talk of adulteration is overstated.

Think big: (Through gritted teeth) consider an approach that speaks to the big project vanity of all incoming governments. Promote large-scale green manufacturing industries–wind turbine heavy engineering, solar panel etc. with parallel deployment in power generation.

Transport infrastructure projects should include all modes of transport, and infrastructure for pedestrians should make people feel good about walking.

Potential of moving construction away from concrete and towards wood.

Hard line on FDI in retail

Manage your own waste

Basic rule for all individuals to industry..Take responsibilities for all wastes you a housewife..a hawker, a doctor..or any small office shops malls or any Industry. Be prepared to pay for its disposal like we doctors in Vadodara do..formed our own IMA-run waste management firm trust..all should be enforced..from street side food stall..shops.. to industry ..all.

Dr Hemanta Sant

Green the minds of next generation
Bharath Kumar

Although this is not a "green agenda" per se, abolition of child labour in all industries is of vital interest to the country. In parallel, school syllabus should compulsorily have high weight for environmental science subjects and related projects. These changes will ensure that children coming out of school are more environment-friendly than the present adult generation. Children in current child labour are more amenable to realising the value of protecting earth once their basic living and educational needs are taken care of.

New changes:
  1. Implement solar energy for all public spaces and offices wherever possible throughout nation.
  2. Heavy taxation on polluters - industrial/commercial
  3. Connect waste to producer closely to increase accountability and therefore responsibility for taking care of generated pollution.
Regardless of whatever environment-friendly changes brought out by any government, in a democratic set up like ours, laws get flouted fairly easily. We need to bring about a spiritual-ecological readjustment of our collective minds to get to the point of realization that the earth is a visible form of God and that living spiritually is to live in an earth-friendly manner.

Everything is interlinked - be it socio-economic issues, spiritual issues or environmental issues. A wide-arching all-encompassing vision needs to be developed in all people of the world to make the right decisions environmentally or spiritually.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.