Focus on air, water and waste management
With insensitive planning that creates a false binary and prioritises development over environment, weak implementation of the green laws, inefficient and corrupt regulators, and irresponsible civic behaviour, the list of India’s environmental challenges is long. At the top of it, of course, is the climate crisis, which cuts across all sectors and has an impact on everyday life. Battling the climate crisis has to be the overarching framework. All laws and rules should be based on that priority and objective. But the World Environment Day also offers an opportunity to look at three, other, more immediate, crises — air pollution; water crisis; and waste management.
While the lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) gave us clean air for two months, this was only a short-term gain. With industries opening up and vehicles back on road, it will be business as usual. Come winter, the challenge will intensify. The water crisis is marked by falling groundwater levels, contaminated water bodies, or drying of Himalayan springs. Last year, India committed to phase out the use of single-use plastic by 2022. This will not be easy, and the rising demand for disposable personal protective equipment will add to the challenge. With the country facing an economic downturn due to Covid-19, there will be a temptation to relax environmental norms for industries. But this will be a major mistake. Building back greener will prepare the country for the future.