Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 24 June 2024

Create the space for governance with a green heart

Relevance: GS Paper III

Why in the News?

A conscious focus on green policies is crucial as environmental issues in India impact the survival and the health of millions.

More Detail About News:

  • As a new government term begins, environmental concerns should be prioritized.
  • Environment Ministers have been concerned primarily with the welfare of mining, oil, coal, highways, and power industries.
  • India stands on the cusp of severe environmental degradation, which can only be arrested by the conscious adoption of green policies even as the country pursues the goal of becoming a middle-income economy.
    • There are urgent environmental areas that need to be addressed.

Greater vulnerability

  • Climate change is something India's leadership mentions often but does little to engage with (with the limited exception of promoting the solar energy industry).
  • Even as energy consumption soars, no steps have been taken to consciously pursue an agenda of cutting down emissions.
  • The remediatory aspects of climate change which include building resilience, food security, and access to essentials have fallen far behind in priorities.
    • As floods, famines, heatwaves, wildfires, water shortages and droughts become increasingly common, contingency plans must be put in place to protect vulnerable populations and diminish harm.
  • Forest Cover: India has one of the world's lowest levels of green cover per capita. 
    • It has only 28 trees per headcount of the populace, in contrast with Canada's 8953 or even China's 130.
    • Qualitatively important forest cover has decreased significantly in the last 20 years, and the less said about urban forestry the better.
    • The damage to our forests has been covered up with questionable accounting, which includes plantation forests and tree cover in urban centres.
    • Recent legislation such as the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, which was legislation ramrodded through the outgoing Parliament, needs to be rolled back and robust new protections put in place.
  • Unliveable cities: The metropolitan centres of India have overgrown any plans that were laid for them.
    • Delhi, Mumbai and a large swathe of tier 2 and tier 3 cities across the Gangetic belt now have unacceptable levels of air pollution, destroying the lifespans of their residents.
    • Bengaluru and Delhi are running out of water, and the poor have to queue for hours to have access to the bare minimum.
    • The rivers that brought life to cities, such as the Adyar in Chennai or the Yamuna in Delhi, have become open sewers.
    • Green spaces and water bodies in cities have been built over, which has created heat islands.
    • Smaller cities have more manageable problems, but without timely intervention, will reach the same crisis levels as the metros.
    • Sewage treatment specifically requires a major national overhaul as Indian cities treat only approximately 28% of the sewage they generate.

Destruction in the Himalayas

  • Concern in Himalayas: Climate change has had outsize repercussions in the mountains of India.
    • Glaciers are rapidly receding, and in some places, have disappeared. Up to 80% of their volume is forecast to disappear in this century.
    • Rainfall and temperature patterns have changed beyond recognition.
    • This impacts the water and food security of not just the people of the mountains but also of much of North India.
    • Similar concerns arise for wetlands whose importance has never been greater and other marginal landscapes which are critical for biodiversity as well.
    • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) mechanisms have become mere checkboxes to be ticked for all projects. The Char Dham Highway project is an example. Passed through amidst a barrage of small EIAs, the grandiose scheme has caused irreparable harm to the river valleys of Uttarakhand.
    • The deforestation and erosion caused has created additional unforeseen risks, best exemplified by the tunnel collapse of November 2023.
    • Over the past five years, the EIA Notification of 2006 has been significantly diluted through numerous amendments.
    • EIA mechanisms need to be elevated to statutory status, so that they are beyond such sabotage.

Restore genuine conservation

  • Greenwashing: Ill-advised policies, which have been driven by commercial interest, such as green credits and compensatory afforestation, have taken the place of genuine conservation efforts.
    • Sustainable development does not mean that only commercially profitable steps may be taken by the government.
    • Enforcement mechanisms and bodies also need more teeth so as to ensure genuine environmental rule of law.


These are not luxury concerns. They impact the survival and the health of millions. The absence of these issues from the election manifestos of the major political parties was bitterly disappointing. But it is not too late. If the government is to truly be the steward of the people, it must start by taking a hard look at the physical health of the country.

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