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Over 70 civil society groups urge citizens to vote for clean environment, stable climate

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NEW DELHI, April 17: More than 70 environmental and civil society organisations on Wednesday urged citizens to evaluate India’s performance with respect to environment and ecology in the last few years before exercising their franchise in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

These organisations include the National Alliance of People’s Movements, People for Aravallis, Youth for Himalaya, Climate Front India, Fridays for Future, Alliance for Rivers in India, Indian Social Action Forum, United Conservation Movement (Karnataka), Aarey Conservation Group, Yugma Collective, and Save Pune Hills from Maharashtra; Endangered Himalaya (Himachal Pradesh), Van Gujjar Tribal Yuva Sangathan (Uttarakhand), Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, Jharkhand Kisan Parishad, Jan Vikas Shakti Sangathan (Bihar), and UP Land Right Forum.

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“As Indians prepare to vote in this year’s Lok Sabha elections, it is crucial to consider the future of our democracy, especially the youth and their right to clean air and water security in the coming years as our country faces extreme impacts of climate change, including unpredictable rainfall, melting glaciers, and increasing pollution,” they said in a joint statement.

They asked citizens to evaluate India’s performance with respect to environment and ecology in the last few years along with other important factors such as “increase or decrease in quality of life, freedom of speech, democratic fabric of the nation, job creation, citizens’ rights,” etc before casting their vote.

The groups said that based on the latest scientific insights and environmental data, India ranked at the bottom of 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) of 2022 with extremely low scores across a range of critical issues.

“On one hand, there are high-scoring countries such as Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Finland, which have shown longstanding and continuing investments in policies that protect environmental health, preserve biodiversity and habitat, conserve natural resources, and decouple greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth, showing notable leadership and policies.

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“At the other extreme is India at the bottom of the list with deteriorating air quality, rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater depletion, drying up and polluted rivers and water bodies, and mountains of waste everywhere,” the statement said.

The civil society organisations said many crucial laws protecting India’s environment and natural ecosystems such as the Forest Conservation Act and the Environment Impact Assessment Notification have been “weakened” in the last few years at a time when the country is grappling with worsening impacts of climate change.

The country’s pristine forests, rivers, mountains and deserts are being exploited for coal, critical minerals, mega-infrastructure and dam projects, they said.

The groups said that India is facing a huge water crisis with 70 per cent of the country’s groundwater aquifers having dried up and the rate of recharge being less than 10 per cent.

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India was declared the third-most polluted country in 2023 according to a report released by Swiss air quality monitoring body, IQ Air, falling from eighth position in 2022. Out of the 50 most polluted cities in the world, 42 cities are now in India.

They asked political leaders to include community and civil society in the decision-making process pertaining to all local and national development works, and ensure that no diversion of forest and agricultural land takes place without gram sabha’s consent.

“All dilutions in environment and forest laws such as the Forest Conservation Amendment, Environment Impact Assessment, and others since 2014 must be reversed. Full and effective implementation of the Environment Protection Act, Biodiversity Act, Forest Rights Act, PESA Act, and similar legislations that uphold the rights of nature and indigenous communities,” they said.

The environmental groups also sought a ban on all projects related to interlinking and damming of rivers, blasting, tunnelling, and cutting of mountains, cumulative impact assessment studies and public referendums on the same.

They said all wetland must be notified under the Wetland Rules 2010 and all the rivers, johads (or pokhars), lakes, ponds, and other water bodies that have dried up across India must be revived and water recharge using traditional knowledge must be taken up at a war footing. (PTI)





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