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We will triumph in the field of environment protection when it gets precedence in the election manifesto

Column by Viral Desai, Environmentalist & Ecopreneur

So far, among all the governments we have seen, the Narendra Modi government is the most serious about climate change. Also, it is not that Narendrabhai became serious about climate change after moving to the Centre, but when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he started a ‘Climate Change Department’ in his government, which was the first department in all the states of the country. Also, since he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he was very active in renewable energy like solar energy and windmill energy, due to which many young entrepreneurs like me turned to renewable energy about fifteen years ago. If I speak for myself, my factory, which employs four hundred men, has not used a single rupee of coal-fired electricity in the last fifteen years.

But the commitment of one person or one government is minimal against such a big country and so many problems of climate change. If one Narendra Modi or one government moves toward zero carbon emissions, all the states and the people in those states have to make such an effort. That is why I believe that food, housing, education or infrastructure are the basic needs of the people of our country. A good environment and healthy life should also be the primary need of people.

That’s why I dream that climate action and environmental protection are given the first place and priority in the election manifesto of every political party whenever state government or Lok Sabha elections are held in the country, and people also give priority to the same parties, which not only about have an agenda of development, but also about environment. Talking about friendly development. However, it seems that it will take many more years for that dream to come true. Because despite the focus on environmental protection in the education system over the years and despite taking many concrete steps in the direction of climate change by the central government, the concern and attachment that should be created among the people regarding the environment has not been established.

Rather, people believe that climate change is only a government problem. Not their problem. But when floods hit us due to heavy rains, when the festival of Diwali is about to arrive, but the monsoon has not stopped, when more than 30 per cent of the country is facing water scarcity despite so much rain, or when there are frequent landslides in the Himalayas, we should start thinking that if the problem of climate change is the sole responsibility of the government, then why are we becoming the victims? And it is clear as a lamp that if we are the victims of climate change, then we have to learn to face the problem of climate change ourselves too.

Recently I read a report which said that seven out of ten people in India fear that climate change will have very serious impacts on their area or region in the next ten years. So 65 per cent of the people of India also believe that due to climate change, they will have to migrate from their home or their native area! The survey did not highlight anything except some very serious facts and figures. But being an environment lover, a question arose in my mind that seven out of ten people in India are afraid of the effects of climate change, then why only one out of ten is prepared to contribute to climate action and environmental protection?

Then why can’t seven out of ten Indians avoid using single-use plastic? Why can’t seven out of ten people in India switch to renewable energy? Why can’t seven out of ten people take action towards energy conservation? And why can’t seven out of ten people advocate tree plantation or afforestation? But no, when it the time to act or perform, we offload our responsibilities to others. That’s why seven out of ten of us will worry that we will suffer the severe effects of climate change in the next ten years. But those seven people do not think about what steps should be taken to meet the climate change emergency.

And that is why I am also worried that, on the one hand, Prime Minister Modi is guiding the whole world in the direction of climate change and, as a ‘Champion of the Earth’, is leading the world with many innovative ideas in the direction of climate change, what if the citizens of his country only don’t support him? After all, I have been shouting for several years that climate change is not just an awareness issue. It is not that simple that if we make people aware of the problems and solutions, they will automatically start working and solving their issues… The issue of climate change is also a question of concern. Because seven out of ten people’s fear of climate change is the proof that they are aware of the serious issue. But from the experience my field work over the last years, I have witnessed that only about one in ten Indian is working towards climate action.

Then how can we bridge this gap? Who will prepare the people? In the past years, we have also designed many rules and made many laws. But what difference did it make? Instead, corruption increased in society, and our country’s economy began to be used in wrongful activities. If the government made a strict law of pollution control in the industry, then we as civilians started bypassing it by pleasing the babus working for pollution control. The government made a law that all vehicles must have a PUC certification, we give five hundred / or thousand rupees in lieu of PUC, but we do not follow the rules of PUC hence contributing to severe air pollution. The government has made a rule to ban single-use plastic. But unfortunately, three such government notifications of banning single-use plastic were ignored by the majority.

In short, rules or policies will only work if we, the people, become aware. And that is why I have come to the conclusion that so far, our elections have never been fought on the priority agendas of climate change or environmental protection. But still, I am hopeful in this direction and will continue to build a positive relationship with people through climate action and environmental protection.