ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES BEFORE MODI GOVERNMENT: AN ANALYSIS BY AAYUSH AKAR
This time Modi Government (2.0) during elections had included climate change in its manifesto which made it first national party to include climate challenge in its manifesto. This year the campaign named "No Water No Votes” was started where people of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh decided to boycott election via democratic means in order to send a clear message to the politicians. With the demand for more electricity resources, innovations in infrastructure and climate changes that are influencing the natural resources of India, the Modi Government is likely to face a major environmental crisis.
CHALLENGES FOR MODI 2.0
As per Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, water crisis is the major challenge before Modi Government. The world’s seventh-largest country has just 4% of water resources of the world. Every summer farmers cry out for monsoon as the country faces huge water deficit. For example in May 2019, Chennai was the first major metropolitan city which faced the issue of water crisis to such an extent that it becomes difficult for the people to outlive. Residents had to fill the pots with tank water in order to survive. Similarly "No Water No Votes” campaign had shown major impact in 2018 state legislature elections.
As per N H Ravindranath, the scientist who is currently carrying out a national level study on climate change in India has expressed his views that India will face severe climate change issues in this century. In most of the states in June 2018 and 2019, the temperature was intensified to the extent i.e. 50 degree Celsius that could cause the death of the people and drought in the nation. Because of rising temperature, the country is witnessing extraordinary rainfall patterns which are causing excess floods leading to tremendous losses for the people.
POLICY REVIEW UNDER MODI 2.0
Modi Government recently formed Jal Shakti Mantralya in order to deal with water crisis and rejuvenation of River Ganga. The National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD), which was under the purview of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), was also brought under this umbrella. There was the amalgamation of two ministries Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. It was subsumed with the commitment of cleaning river Ganga. The ambit of the Ministry will incorporate issues ranging from international and state water disputes, the Namami Gange flagship programme for cleaning of river Ganga and its tributaries and providing clean water. But the ministry failed to resolve water crisis in Chennai where people cried out for water. It was the first time that the major city has been hitting headlines of the water crisis. The Dravidian city historically relied on annual monsoon to replenish water resources but the 2018 northeast monsoon season was the driest monsoon recorded in the city. The ministry failed to deal with integrated water issues as a result, clean drinking water was not supplied to the residents of Chennai. There is no additional budget for the Mantralya to fund new schemes so the ministry should converge existing schemes into a single flagship scheme. This can help the ministry to monitor single scheme of water conservation easily. It can follow a flexible approach in dealing with water issues and can push for conservation and sustainability to balance supply. The officials of the ministry have to take additional measures of making rainwater harvesting mandatory, afforestation, groundwater recharge, etc for solving the water crisis in the nation. The water crisis in Madras could teach a lesson to the ministry of how to deal with water crisis and citizens for judicious use of water.
Similarly the Namami Gange Programme, a flagship scheme of the Modi Government of 20,000 crores launched in 2015 with the objective of reducing “contamination, preservation and restoration" of the Ganga. With the budget of Rs 20,000 crores, Ganga River is an image of utter negligence with black sewage advancing into it along with plastic litter, bodies, waste, human and animal excreta offering to ascend to dangerous toxic waste. Even NGT questioned the Central Government over underutilization of 7,000 crores in the last two years. A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in December a year ago accused "unused funds," "the absence of a long term plan" and "absence of pollution abatement works" for discouraging the Ganga cleaning process. It is the need of the hour to have a ground-level survey of cross-examining of funds utilized in the project and legislation for fining those who are flouting norms. The government is allowing new dams to be constructed into the river. It can cause ecological damage and disrupt the flow of the holy river. Though the Government constructed toilets for those who are living on the banks of Ganga but not focused on the management of sludge. The faecal sludge is more harmful than sewerage, so this is the challenge for the Government to have proper faecal sludge management.
The proclamation of Electric Vehicle Policy in the Union Budget 2019-20 gladdened the automobile industry. It would help in creating a manufacturing base in the nation and stimulate investors to invest in this sector. The Government pronounced GST of 5% in electric vehicles which can boost investors to invest in this sector. It is the reasonable decision of Government to ban internal combustion engine-driven two and three-wheelers by 2025 and 2030, respectively. Modi Government’s continuous emphasis on FAME initiative and bolstering of EV manufacturing base could bring down crude oil imports and air pollution promoting a cleaner and greener future.
As the threat of climate change is increasing, it becomes paramount that the need arises to pursue development which can have less negative impact on the environment. The Government should clearly initiate those schemes which internalize and mainstream climate considerations. Fortunately, when it comes to worldwide coverage, addressing climate change can also bring economic and political gains. Similarly, a considerable amount of work is required in resolving issues of the water crisis in India. Climate change significantly impacts water resources of the country. Efforts need to be ramped up to reduce the overall amount of water stress and improve water management capacities. Additionally, joint monitoring and initiatives on education and training on climate change and water crisis is required at mass level to recognize crisis at an early stage.