|Shri Madhav Gadgil, Founder, Centre of Ecological Sciences|
|Shri Ajay Mathur, Director General, TERI|
REPORT ON DISCUSSION
Subject: Environmental Challenges
Date: 18th December 2018
Venue: BPST Main Lecture Hall, Parliament Library Building, New Delhi
Resource Persons: Prof. Madhav Gadgil, Founder Centre for Ecological Sciences
Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Research Institute TERI
A workshop on the subject “Environmental Challenges” was held under the aegis of Speaker’s Research Initiative on 18 December, 2018. Prof. Madhav Gadgil, Founder Centre for Ecological Sciences and Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Research Institute TERI were the experts invited to present their views on the subject.
Shri Rahul Dev, Honorary Advisor, SRI began the first workshop of the winter session by welcoming the experts and the Members of Parliament who were present. After giving a brief introduction of the resource persons, he called upon Prof. Madhav Gadgil to present his views on the subject.
Prof. Madhav Gadgil began his presentation by saying that he would share his experiences along with general principles supported by three case studies. He started with the example of recent catastrophe that had unfolded in the form of Kerala floods. According to him the suggestions made by Western Ghats Ecological Expert Panel had been neglected altogether and opined that if they had been considered and acted upon the disaster could have been averted.
In his first case study he talked about the Hydro electricity project on the river Chalakudi in the Athirappilly panchayat, district Thrissur, Kerala. After detailed studies on this project the following conclusions were made:
1. It was found that the expected generation of the power from the hydro resources was overestimated and the whole project was a negative energy project i.e. spending more to generate less.
2. After building this dam the waterfall would go dry and the tourist spot would lose its attraction and eventually the revenue.
3. If the project had commissioned the irrigation near that region might have been adversely affected.
4. A large area of land would have been inundated, leading to large scale unsettlement.
Citing these reasons the Nagar Parishad and village panchayats had passed a resolution and axed the project .
He further added that one of the major reasons for floods was construction of huge number of dams without any technical and economic justifications. He pointed out that the lack of regular water level monitoring in the dams and reservoirs led to floods like the one that was seen in Kerala. He suggested that better rainfall predictions complemented with scientific planning for storage of water in reservoirs could avert such situations. Further, he opined that the decision making processes in this regard should be decentralized and local population's views and concerns should be taken into consideration and acted upon.
CASE STUDY -2
Prof. Gadgil took up " Kudumbashree " as his second case study and said “It is a programme in Kerala in which Women have formed a cooperative and taken up fallow lands for cultivation. This initiative has not only given them employment but also dignity of life and food security. These women could'nt afford the expensive chemical fertilizers so they have started using the organic ones making their product environmental friendly and organic”. He was of the opinion that Government incentivises chemical fertilisers in the form of subsidies which should be stopped and shifted to those who use organic inputs and natural methods of farming. Citing Australia he said that they already had a system like this in place. Similarly he felt that the issue of stubble burning in Northern India could also be resolved through this incentivisation model.
CASE STUDY -3.
Speaking of the district Gadhchiroli in Maharashtra, Prof Gadgil said Forest Rights Act had been implemented in 2008 which had decriminalised the use of forest produce and had given ownership to the forest dwellers/tribals. He added that lots of lives had been benefited from the plantation of bamboo and tendupatta in this area. It had given them livelyhood with dignity. Gram Sabhas had been getting sufficient amount of money which was being distributed among Members setting aside a portion for village development, forest development and other such programmes. Concluding his talk he said that the solution to the environmental issues was not to criminalise the voilations but to incentivise the good enviromental practices. He felt that by giving ownership rights and livelihood to the people we could encourage them to inculate practices which were in harmony with the nature.
Dr. Ajay Mathur focused on urban pollution which has become a country wide phenomena . He said, "...one can observe this thick cloud of smoke from the skies of Himachal to Bangladesh and also in western part of India , it is primarily because of emissions of coal based power plants, industries and households. The magnitude of this smoke forms a layer of cloud in the sky. Air Pollution is not the problem of Delhi or any one city but it is a nationwide problem...". He added that, secondary pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, urea, ammonia and other particulate matter had been added into the atmosphere. He was of the view that steps like clean fuel in the households, uninterrupted power supply could considerably reduce the air pollution. Citing the example of Chembur in Mumbai he said, "Due to Thermal and Fertiliser plant it had a severe air pollution". Therefore it was imperative to identify the sources of pollution in order to act upon them. Dealing with measures for Air quality improvement, he suggested the following key actions:
Further, taking up the second domain of his talk about water pollution, Dr. Mathur listed the following issues pertaining to water quality:
The following key actions of Water Quality Improvement were suggested:
Waste ( Municipal Solid Waste ) Related Issues
Suggested Key Actions for the Waste Management
Waste to Compost
Harvesting landfill gas(LFG)
Landfill free cities
Key mitigation policies and actions
Issues and Solutions
He then concluded his presentation and the floor was open for a question-answer session.
A Member raised an issue as to why we had not thought of positive incentives for environmental friendly conduct and also curtailing negative regulations. In response Prof. Madhav Gadgil replied that we in India had to seriously start discussing this issue and make way for legislation for this after consultations with various sections of society.
A Member from a tribal constituency asked, “...In hindsight, implementing Forest and Tribal Rights Acts some people with vested interests are diverting the land to commercial use and eventually resulting in deforestation. How can a public representative prevent this from happening?...”
Prof. Gadgil replied that cases like these were an example of people mistaking Forest Rights Act 2005 as a individual right than community right. He urged the public representatives to make sure that this misinterpretation is removed and rights of the community are given priority.
One Member said, "politics have destroyed more forests than anything else since independence". He added besides forests being destroyed considerable damage has also been done to animal population. In this context he lauded schemes like Ujjwala Yojna and said, schemes like these will gradually reduce the use of wood as house hold fuel. Similarly he felt that there should be alternate material for building houses.
Disagreeing with this, another Member is intervened and said, "Dudhwa National Park which comes in his constituency and close to India Nepal border the area under forest cover has actually increased. He said in this area there are 38 revenue villages and each having a population close to 40 thousand, but despite human settlements the area under forest cover has increased".
On the issue of stubble burning popularly known as parali a Member suggested that it could be addressed through following initiatives:
In response to a question raised by one of Members as to how much air pollution was being caused by cars, Dr. Ajay Mathur replied that only three percent of the total air pollution was caused by cars. He suggested that better car upkeep, introduction of Bharat Stage fuels, Biofuels policy, old vehicles scrapping policy, amendments in Motor vehicle Act, electronic vehicle policy could check air pollution in metropolitan cities.
Thereafter, the workshop concluded.