Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has initiated several measures in past three years towards achieving sustainable development through green pathway.
Adhering to the objectives of the National Forrest Policy the MoEFFC has set out the road map to increase the forest cover to 33 percent of the geographical area. Green India Mission aims to reforest barren land with the annual target of increasing the forest quality and cover in 5 million hectares.
In order address the problem of decreasing forest cover, and to compensate the forests lost for the development purposes, Compensatory Afforestation Bill was passed in the Parliament in 2016 to utilise Rs 42,000 crore. This fund was accumulated from the levies realised from the forests diverted for non forestry purposes.
This facilitates utilisation of the funds for conservation, improvement of forests in a transparent manner. The central government has initiated steps to converge various forestry activities with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. This will generate 15 crore man days of direct employment in the tribal dominated interior forest areas of the country.
These programmes will be implemented through participation of people, especially joint forest management programmes and village forest committees or van suraksha samitis.
As the country is getting urbanised, the central government has launched novel scheme of creating urban forestry known as Nagar Vana Udyan Yojana. A minimum of 25 hectares of forests will created in the city. This will meet the recreational needs as well as act as the lungs by purifying the air from vehicular pollution. This is also linked to the Schools Nursery Yojana that aims to build lasting bond between students and nature.
The Protected Areas of National Parks and Wild Life Sanctuaries play very important role in conservation of biodiversity and securing the habitat of wild life. In order to reduce the pressure on these protected areas, 275 Eco Sensitive Zones (ESZs) have been approved and accordingly notification has been issued to implement the policy.
India is facing the brunt of climate change on a large scale. The severe weather conditions with rise of temperatures above normal during the month of March in 2017 and severe water shortages have adversely affected the food production.
One of the main drivers of climate change is the emission of carbon due to the increased use of fossil fuel energy sources. It is predicted that the country may lose up to 1.7 per cent of GDP if the temperature increases by 1 degree Celsius. In order to arrest this trend India has voluntarily agreed to reduce the carbon emission intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 at 2005 level.
While launching India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) on Gandhi Jayanti Day on 2nd October 2015 Prime Minister gave a call for ’convenient action’ in order to deal with ‘ inconvenient truth’ of climate change.
India is faced with the double challenge of meeting the demands of the development to reach its poorest groups and follow the low carbon emission pathway. In order to achieve this it is anchored on the premise of sustainable lifestyles and climate justice to protect the interests of vulnerable groups.
What is the roadmap to reach this goal? A low carbon economy will require a paradigm shift in the way energy is produced and used in different sectors of the economy. The INDC set the target of producing 40 per cent of electric power from non fossil fuel based sources.
The formation of Rs 3500 million or US Dollar 56 million ‘National Adaptation Fund’ will initiate policies towards renewable energy though multiple initiatives to achieve the target of reducing carbon emissions. The main focus is to revisit the National Missions under National Action for Climate Change (NAPCC) with additional missions on wind, health, water and redesigning missions on sustainable agriculture.
While policies are geared towards clean and renewable energy sources, it also calls for energy efficiency, promotion of waste to wealth, green transportation and enhancing carbon sink through increase in the forest cover.
Green India mission under NAPCC is implementing the plan to plant 10 million hectares by 2030. This will create additional carbon sinks to the tune of 2.5 billion tons.
A National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change has been established to assist state level activities to meet the cost of adaptation. A sum of Rs 331 crores has been allocated for sixteen states to implement the adaptation programmes.
To initiate steps to conserve the river ecosystems National River Conservation Plans (NRCP) has been launched that aims to clean the polluted rivers. Tripartite Memorandum of Agreements has been signed between state governments and local bodies, independent professional bodies and independent project inspectors to control the pollution levels in the rivers.
Physical targets of more than 50 percent in installation of polltution treatment plants have been achieved in Rivers Satluj, Ghaggar in Punjab. Sabarmati conservation project phase II is launched in Gujarat. The MoEFCC is implementing NRCP across numerous states in India including hill states of Sikkim and Nagaland.
In order to aid appraisal of the development projects river basin cumulative impact analysis and carrying capacity studies were done for Subansari, Tawang, Bichom and Siang in North Eastern India.
Wetland ecosystem plays crucial role in purifying the water. Management Action Plans for 40 major wetlands across India is taken up at the cost of Rs 13.43 crores.
Tackling solid waste and air pollution
In addition to these actions, the MoEFCC has notified rules for Solid, Plastic, Biomedical, and E Waste Management to tackle different kind of non bio degradable wastes being generated in the country.
In order to create a transparent system to reach common people about the health hazards of air pollution, Air Quality Index is launched in 16 cities. This indicates the level of air pollution in a real time on daily basis. With this data the citizens can monitor the air quality in the cities.
The MoEFCC has reached out to 11 lakh youth participants in tree plantation, water conservation and awareness on low carbon lifestyles, and solid waste management.
India is moving ahead with shifting away from HFCs by providing domestic innovation in developing new generation refrigerants and related sustainable technologies that harm the ozone layer.
The Ministry has developed “Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India” with Department of Space. This provides detailed information on the present land use, and the severity of land degradation in different states from 2005 to 2013. This consolidated statistics will provide the basis for future land use in the country.
*Author is an independent journalist and columnist based in Karnataka.