All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has discredited a paper on Environmental Sciences from the general model curriculum for Undergraduate Degree Courses in the first year of Engineering and Technology courses. But they have issued a notification on model curriculum for undergraduate courses in Engineering and Technology Chapter 1 on general course structure and theme, as well as semester-wise credit distribution. It showed serial number 8 assigned under Environmental Sciences category has been discredited. AICTE initially categorized Environmental Sciences in the list of mandatory papers and later discredited it whereas the premier technical body offered 12 credits for Humanities and Social Sciences which is absolutely beyond one’s understanding and imagination. It shows their sheer negligence while adopting such policy measures. Remember when the National Democratic Alliance Government included ‘Climate Change’ within the ambit of Ministry of Environment & Forest right after forming the Government in 2014? We have been witnessing our Government’s firm commitment to waging war against climate change in the wake of Paris Climate Agreement which is going to be legally binding from 2020 to 2030. Our Government has been an integral partner in three major global plan objectives for the next 15 years from 2015 onwards to 2030.
First, India ratified Paris Climate Agreement in October 2016, and we are now legally bound to reduce carbon emission by 33%-35% of our Gross Domestic Productivity of 2005 level in accordance with Nationally Determined Contributions/NDCs submitted to the UNFCCC before the Paris Climate Agreement. Secondly, we are committed to fulfil UN Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable Development Goals/SDGs 13 deals with ‘Climate Change’ specifically. #SDGs 6 deals with ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ and Likewise #SDGs 14 & 15 deal with specifically ‘Life below Water’ and ‘Life on Land’ respectively. #SDGs 7 deals with ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ whereas #SDGs 11 deals with ‘Sustainable Cities & Communities’. And the third long-term plan for the next 15 years is quite significant when India has already signed ‘Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030’. It outlines the need for understanding disaster risk at national and local as well as global and regional levels and calls for strengthening ‘Disaster Risk Governance’ to manage disaster risk as a part of significant priority of action.
Recently Hon’ble Supreme Court of India asked Ministry of Human Resource and Development, GoI to constitute a core committee to monitor and ensure that all State Boards comply with the order seeking implementation of the directive to make environment education a compulsory subject in School Curriculum across the Country. Hearing the PIL filled by eminent environmental lawyer Adv. M.C Mehta in 1991, Chief Justice T.S Thakur asked the Central nodal agency to furnish details with this regard. Voice of environment is disseminating information through various channels so that there could be imposed pressure on the Union and State Governments.
The Government agencies didn’t comply with court orders. While hearing Application 318/2013 Hon’ble National Green Tribunal/ NGT highlighted the relevance of Environmental Studies subject with regard to the eligibility and qualification of Chairman and Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Boards. Even if a Member Secretary of the State Pollution Control Board occupies the office, they fulfil eligibility criteria merely because of being a member of Indian Forest Services or has retired from said service, isn’t true at all. If they aren’t a Graduate/Post Graduate in Environmental Studies and its protection as a specialized subject, they aren’t eligible for the said position.
“The first criteria of “Special Knowledge” for appointment of Chairman (of State Pollution Control Board), as prescribed under Section 4 (2) (a) of the Water Act and Section 5(2) of the Air Act unambiguously means knowledge acquired through a well-designed special Programme/course based on topics pertaining to environment and its protection. Though it has not been specifically mentioned in the aforesaid provisions that basic academic qualification in environmental protection is required, the words special knowledge taken within its ambit such requirement as the legislature cannot be presumed to be oblivious of existence of such basic qualifications”.
Despite such clear-cut provisions except 3-4 State Pollution Control Boards, majority of states don’t comply with the provisions. This is the major reason for ongoing confrontations between development and environment. Such officials hire candidates over ad-hoc positions from the non-environmental background, and they don’t mention Environmental Sciences as a subject giving out expertise environmental positions to those having background of sciences other than Environmental Sciences.
Recently, NGT ceased the functioning of 10 chairmen of State Pollution Control Boards belonging from Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra and Manipur due to failure of appointment of chairman within the ambit of its earlier judgment. “The Tribunal cannot remain a silent spectator in respect of improper and illegal working of Pollution Control Board/Committee and its consequence and repercussion to the public at large.”
While hearing on the case, NGT says, “It is rather strange that despite of more than sufficient time having been given by the Tribunal the aforesaid States did not take steps to implement the judgment passed by the Tribunal on 24th August, 2016. In such view of the matter this Tribunal, after considering the case in its entirety and carefully perusal the reply filed to the show cause notices, has no option but to ask the Chairman of the Pollution Control Boards, mentioned above, to cease from functioning as Chairman.”
AICTE is one of the premier bodies for technical education in India, and I wonder how such a body is ignorant of the ongoing global concern on environment, climate change and disaster. It is overshadowing Government’s commitment to Paris Climate Accord, Sustainable Development Goals and Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction. AICTE should understand the relevance of the period between 2015-30 which is going to be decisive and path-breaking for India.
This is absolutely the right time for our monitoring and regulating body to understand how significant are the issues of environment, climate change and disaster. Sound environmental policy shall occupy the core central position around which climate, development and disaster risk reduction shall play the peripheral role. Now a major question arises whether the incumbent structure of environmental education is fair enough to deal with achieving such long-term global objectives or we will collapse due to incumbent professionals and policymakers those who don’t have an expertise knowledge resource of specific environmental subjects.