Paris deal compliance is excellent but India need to declare climate emergency

Dr VK Bahuguna

(The author is a former civil servant)
The climate change fall outs are not only banging at our doors but have entered our homes unsettling the normal life across the country particularly destroying the fiber of life sustaining resources. Many parts of the North and West in the country were reeling with intense heat wave during May and June when the temperature touched 50 degrees in Churu in Rajasthan on 12th June. It touched up to 50.8 °C near to all time high recorded in the country at 51.0 °C in 2016. Most of North and Western India has been reeling under severe heat waves causing drought and severe water scarcity. Now the Mansoon though had covered the entire country was 21 % deficient in the first week of July. The vagaries of Monsoon and weather truants in the entire country are being faced all round the year for quite some time now the crucial July month is receiving less rain compared to September and late August and is thus posing a challenge for the food basket of India. The draught due to delayed rains and floods sue to excessive rains in short period have become very common causing unbearable hardship to the people and damages to life and property coupled with water wastage. Already till the beginning of July second week this year the sowing of Kharif crop has declined compared to last year. India is therefore, extremely vulnerable to climate change and the main culprits is melting of Himalayan glaciers and erratic Monsoon.

Many countries in the world especially in Europe have started taking adverse climatic changes seriously. French have recently declared climate emergency in Paris. The British parliament, Australia and Ireland have already declared climate emergency during May 2019 at several locations. The purpose of climate emergency is to take radical steps to obtain zero carbon emission by 2050 and take all possible short and long term steps and mobilization of resources to prevent deterioration of environmental ambience. So far world over climate emergency has been declared in 740 locations by the local or national governments.

The United Nations had warned that humans have just 11 years left to limit a climate change catastrophe. In view of lurking danger let us examine the thereat and seriousness of impacts of much needed development of the country and end poverty. As far as Indian commitment to Paris deal is concerned it is quite encouraging considering the international dimensions. The country has pledged a 33-35% reduction in the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels in its Nationally Determined Contribution submitted after the Paris deal, generate 40% of its electricity through renewable or nuclear energy and increase tree cover to create an additional cumulative carbon sink of 2,500-3,000 MtCO2e by 2030 it is roughly on a par with India's total emissions across one year. India however, asserted that its achievements will depend on international financial and technology transfer as well as capacity building support from developed countries. During the cop 24 in Katowice in Poland India asserted that it is well on course of achieving its Paris commitments.

However, all said and done about our achievements at the international level, the country's planners have to brash up for meeting the climatic vagaries on war footings. The rising
temperatures, erratic Monsoon and consequent natural calamities and storms and cyclones cannot be handled only by the routine measures and programmes. India's rich district of Aurangabad was in media headline during 2010 when it ordered 65 Mercedes and in one go spending 150 crore, but this year it is in head India for unprecedented demand of water tanks during May and June. The prosperity of people and material wealth is of no use if they do not have access to drinking water. In many locations in Uttarakhand people are migrating to plain areas due to drying up of sub-surface drinking water.

The country, therefore, need to take radical steps to identify locations which can be declared as areas of climate emergency. For example, Delhi and National Capital Region along with its sources of climatic problems (like burning of straw by farmers etc) is a fit case for declaring it as climate emergency zone considering the air quality, Yamuna River pollution and now the Ozone concentration. The government of India had recently created the 'JalShakti' Ministry and have launched a water conservation movement in 1592 Blocks in 256 districts of the country. These locations should also be declared as climate emergency. First, an action plan should be prepared to list the locations for focused implementation of programmes on climate change with convergence of schemes to and declare them as climate emergency hot spots. Second, on policy front one important decision which is causing severe pressure on resources is the population explosion. Unless focused attempts are made to control the population developmental as well as climate mitigation goals will be difficult to achieve. Population control therefore, should be in the core of climate change mitigation programme. It is high time that a legislation is brought on this after obtaining a broader political consensus. Third, focus on water management should be on river basin treatment, draught and flash floods. The aim of all our water related programme should be on regulating and tapping all the precipitation and run off and channel it to recharge the aquifer, village ponds and lakes. Each drop of water must be conserved and aim India a zero flood nation which ultimately make it a draught free country. There are techniques and technologies available. The Central Water Commission and the Indian Space Research Organization in a study done in 2017 and released recently have argued that India is not short of water but due to its mismanagement and misuse faces shortage.

In nut shell, we need to face the daunting task with an innovative mind and for this the 'status quoist' mentally in Lutiyen's Delhi power corridors will have to be shed. Is the Environment Ministry Prepared for tackling the climate change emergency? Does it have sufficient funds, qualified man power and coordinating arms to tackle climate emergency? Most of people in a well rooted system do not per say dislike change but fear they will be changed. We must get over this fear and face head on the task to built a climate safe India for our present and future generations.

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