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Environment: We are not Acting at the Scale of Devastation Around us, Says CSE Report

The CSE's Annual State of India’s Environment Report highlights the need for a global common minimum programme that is inclusive.

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: Pointing out the ‘good news’ that the environment is now "mainstream", a new report has also pointed out the ‘bad news’ that the scale of ecological devastation was affecting human health and the future of the planet.

Calling for “more deliberate steps to reverse the damage”, the Annual State of the Environment Report, brought out by the Centre of Science and Environment, was released here on Thursday.

The report called for a global common minimum programme to combat the environmental challenges and stressed the need for involvement of people at all levels.

Sunita Narain, CSE Director General, in her opening remarks, stressed the need for inclusivity and equality and highlighted issues, such as migration, poverty, and the lives of the homeless in metropolitan cities, that are often missing from the discourse.

“Environment and development are the two sides of the same coin. They are both about survival and the ability to sustain. What requires effort is understanding the challenges and also understanding new approaches towards the environment,” said Narain, adding that “If solutions are not affordable for a large number of people, it won't be sustainable in India.”

Narain spoke about the condition of farmers in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar due to the recent hailstorm. According to the official estimates from the agriculture department, talking Maharashtra alone, a total of more than 1,500 hectares (ha) — including 860 ha in Dhule, 565 ha in Jalgaon, 119 ha in Nashik, and the balance in Nandurbar and surrounding districts — have sustained losses. Weather predictions suggest that Telangana is likely to have similar hailstorms, while Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka are all expected to experience rain and thunderstorms.

The situation has deeply worsened in the past years. “The condition is such that the weather-related displacements have increased more than the conflict-related displacement. The crisis of migration, whether about the impact it has had on cities or as an external hot potato, has left an irreparable mark,” she said.

Pollution deterrence is another major aspect of the report. It highlighted how the system of Continuous Emission Monitoring (CEMS) had no quality checks. It is not being used to check pollution and polluters.

The report also mentioned how the system of environmental and forest clearance was already weak and was being further chipped away, adversely affecting communities and environment. 

The report acknowledges the remarkable attempts made in terms of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and what change it has brought. Back then, there was a clear mandate given by the apex judicial body of the country to bring in a specific target of CNG vehicles within a certain deadline. “It was a battle fought for a long time and eventually won. However, can the same be done in the case of electric vehicles?” asked Anumita Roychowdhury of CSE. She also spoke about the slow pace at which e-vehicles were growing despite the incentives.

Summarising what the report said, Narain said: “The two big trends this year (2022-23) have been the reversal of gains when it comes to energy transition on one hand, and the overwhelming impact of climate change, which is a real threat staring at us. In the face of these two trends, we are seeing the worst manifestation of human behaviour – the global community and its leaders have resorted to accentuating the differences, not the common objectives to work towards a secure future."

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