India has been taking many steps for environment conservation and climate change after the NDA Government took over the reins at the centre, says Javadekar. In an interview to Urban Update, Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar talks about the strategy to make cities sustainable and pollution free, and the action plan to push initiatives for a greener tomorrow at the Paris convention scheduled in November this year.
Cities are the largest contributors to the GDP of the country but they are the largest generators of waste, greenhouse gases, and pollution too. Urban Local Bodies in India are not efficient enough to handle these problems on their own. What can be done to em- power them?
Environment Ministry has made sweeping changes in the rules and regulations for handling all kinds of waste such as e-waste, construction waste, bio-medical waste, industrial waste, etc. These are under public consultation. We are getting suggestions from the people to amend them. We will consider all these suggestions and accordingly bring them in to effect before November this year. Central government has plans to not only provide funds to ULBs for handling waste but also on work to improve the capacity of municipal staff for managing all kinds of waste. First and foremost, there is a need to change the attitude towards sanitation among people. For example, a few months ago, I was at New Delhi Metro Station. I asked many people you litter outside the metro station but not here. Why? They told me, “Sir there is a camera.” It clearly reflects that we need to develop a culture and strictly adhere to it. People will certainly follow.
Transport is among the largest consumers of energy, especially fossil fuels and that has an impact on climate change and environment. What are the plans of the government to improve energy efficiency in the mobility sector?
We have given new targets to all the industries to become energy efficient. We are stressing on more utility or production in less consumption of energy. The standards of environment friendly actions have been changing. We will make all efforts to lessen the pollution in mobility sector too. We are encouraging public transport within cities. We are making amendments in the rules. Today, I can either ask industries to close down or send them a notice. We will have provision for fines soon. However, we are monitoring all the industries causing pollution and sending them regular notices if they are violating the environment norms.
What are the plans of the government of India to make smart cities environmentally sustainable?
The government is focusing on making the upcoming cities smart and sustainable. We have the records of all the forest land in cities. We will begin building small forests in cities under Urban Forestry Scheme. It will be implemented in 200 corporations nationwide. In some of the corporations like Pune and Rajmundari, the work has already begun. Our cities have many gardens but not forests. This scheme will help in improving green cover and cleaning up the environment in cities. This scheme will also be implemented in upcoming Smart Cities. The new capital of Andhra Pradesh is coming up between Guntur and Vijaywada; the city will also be built in the same line. We are also training school students how to plant saplings. This will develop a culture among young generation to plant trees.
What are the plans of the government to make Indian cities greener?
India will clean its air. We have launched Air Quality Index in ten cities. We will clean our water. The nation has already begun the project of cleaning Ganga River. We will clear our environment where Swachh Bharat Mission will play a crucial role. All these steps will help our cities to become green. The 14th Finance Commission has given 7.5 per cent weightage to sanitation programs. Almost six lakh crore rupees have been reserved for forestation only.
The concept of Green Building is catching up fast world over. How government of India is going to promote green buildings? What is the action plan?
Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, where we are sitting right now, is India’s first net zero energy building. It has been constructed through the adoption of solar passive design and energy efficient building material. Green materials like fly ash bricks, regional building materials, materials with high recyclable content, high reflectance terrace tiles and rock wool insulation of outer walls have been used. Reduction in water consumption has been achieved by the use of low discharge water fixtures, recycling of waste water through Sewage Treatment Plant, use of plants with low water demand in landscaping, use of geothermal cooling for HVAC system, rainwater harvesting and use of curing compounds during construction. It is costlier than conventional buildings but it conserves energy and over a period of time, the cost can be recovered. Green buildings will be a key component in smart city development. There are almost 8000 green buildings in the country and we are planning to encourage builders to build more green buildings. We have instructed states in this regard and some of the states have issued notices to builders, contractors to follow certain norms such as having solar panels and rain harvesting system in new buildings to conserve natural resources.
What action has the Bhartiya Janata Party government taken in last one year for environment conservation?
After Modi government came to power, Indian perspective on climate change changed for better. Our PM understands the importance of climate change. Under his leadership, Gujarat was the first state to establish climate change department. He renamed the Environment Ministry to ‘Environment and Climate Change Ministry’.
During his Chief Minister-ship, he installed solar panels on irrigation canals across the state. Evaporating of water stopped and, the cold stream assisted in increasing the efficiency of solar panels. Former US President Al Gore talked about ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ but Modi talked about the convenient actions. He has published a book on the same. India has a habit of reusing things whether books, clothes or anything else. PM thinks that the nation has to set an example and inspire other nations in this regard.
India has the target of generating 175,000 Mw non-conventional energy–100,000 Mw solar power, 60,000 Mw wind energy, 10,000 bio-mass power, and 5,000 small hydro power. This action only will slash 35 crore tonne carbon emission. This is the biggest program in the world to generate non-conventional power. It will take around seven years to complete it.
A total of Rs 35,000 crore under Compensatory Afforestration Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) are with the Ministry. I will unlock it and pave a way for development of forest and ‘Harit’ (Green) India.
World leaders will meet in Paris this year to come forward with an action plan on environment conservation and climate change related issues. What is India’s strategy? What are the issues it would like to be addressed?
The developed countries for long had no obligations or commitments to reduce emissions and have contributed largely to the levels of emissions today. Even today, those countries which are responsible for historical emissions have not made any attempt or are not even inclined to make any attempt to cap their emissions. If you visit America today, you will find shopping malls, glass tower buildings, and glow sign boards are lit even at night hours.
They only talk about the world at large working towards the goal of capping the global temperature rise at 2 degree Celsius. They have not taken any concrete steps towards capping their own emissions.
“Historical emissions and the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) are non-negotiable pillars of Indian strategy. I strongly believe that in last 200 years historical emissions account for vast percentage, well over 70 percent of the emissions that are currently swirling around.”
At Paris in December, countries around the world are expected to sign a new global agreement on climate change, with commitments from both developed and major developing countries on limiting greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, when current commitments run out. This is seen as the last chance for the world to craft such an agreement, because scientists have warned that rising emissions will soon push the world over the critical 2degC threshold, beyond which global warming is likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.
There are many countries which have gained benefit from the early industrialisation. All these developed countries have the responsibility towards climate change and environment conservation. China is not among those countries but it is one the prosperous economies in the world while Greece is the country which took advantage of the industrialisation and contributed to emission of greenhouse gases but it is in severe financial crisis to contribute to the fund for environment conservation and climate change issues. So, a viable sharing of responsibility has to be chalked out. Every country will present Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) plan in the convention. We are asking developed countries to vacate the carbon space for developing countries. Most of the manufacturing units of electronic goods, garments, and other regular stuffs are in China. Developed countries have exported pollution in a way.
There should be some criterion through which consumers should be held responsible for it. India will do whatever it can to keep the environment clean. India has initiated Swachh Bharat Mission, Clean Ganga and other sanitation programs for the same. We will push for getting innovative technology from the developed world to utilise them for improving our environment.