The Indian General Election 2019 is near. Major pan-Indian political parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) – have released their official party manifestos ahead of the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Climate change and environmental issues are gaining importance across the political spectrum since the last few years and that is being reflected in these manifestos.
After going through the manifestos three major parties, I came to know that Congress’ manifesto is the most comprehensive in terms of environmental concerns among the three, covering a wide range of issues spread across three sections. INC’s manifesto reminds that India ranks 177 out of the 180 nations in the Global Environmental Performance Index (GEPI). It proposes to constitute an independent, Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to monitor and enforce environmental standards in India, replacing all other bodies that currently exercise jurisdiction and powers.
INC also recognizes air pollution as a National Public Health Emergency. It also promises to work with the state governments to increase the forest cover from 21% to 25% by 2025. It also speaks about greening the whole process of national accounting by taking the costs of environmental degradation into account viz., calculation of Green GDP. It also mentions about Green Budgeting and making India a ‘green manufacturing hub’. It also promises to develop a Climate Information System, incorporating modern tools of meteorology.
While the BJP manifesto begins the section on the environment with claims on adding of around 9000 sq.kms. to the forest cover of the country by speedy and effective issuance of forest and environmental clearances. The BJP also promises to convert the National Clean Air Programme into a Mission and to focus on 102 most polluted cities of India, which will reduce the pollution levels in these cities by 35% in the next five years. And the CPI(M) speaks about deprivatizing water bodies by recognizing the Right to Water and the re-formulation of the National Water Policy by treating it as a scarce public resource.
All the parties speak about mitigating air pollution and water pollution. Congress also points out the possibility of importing sand to stop illegal sand mining in the riverbanks. Protection of the Himalayan ecosystem finds mention in both Congress’ and BJPs manifestos. INC also reinforces its commitment for the protection of the Western Ghats region. The Congress’ Manifesto has 27 points spread across three sections related to environment and climate change, while the BJP has just four points spread across two sections and CPIM has 8 points spread across 2 sections.
Delving deeper into these promises, we may spot some flaws or omissions, but it’s a positive sign that these parties realized the significance of the environment and they can no longer neglect these concerns anymore. Unrest among people and health emergencies like air pollution are being witnessed in different parts of the country, as seen in the world-at-large. Indian cities remain in the top of the list of most polluted cities of the world. Our rivers remain unimaginably polluted due to unscientific human action. Our lakes are dying. The marine ecosystem is in danger. It’s enough for now!
We need rapid, timely action. More than mere words, these promises should translate into strict actions with a strong political will to back it. Public authorities and institutions should be held more accountable to turn these promises into reality and public funds should be used wisely to meet them.
(Reference — The election manifestos of the BJP, INC and The CPI(M) available in the official websites of the respective parties)