Seeking to scotch “lies” being floated about the land acquisition bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that it synergized India’s growth imperative with the need for environment protection, while calling for the country to demonstrate leadership in tackling the global threat of climate change.
Inaugurating the state environment and forest ministers’ conference here, Modi said environment protection and development can go “hand in hand” but expressed disappointment that “lies” were being floated around in this regard.
Giving the example of the land bill, he said: “The provisions of the bill do not touch tribal and forest land. But serious misconceptions and lies are being spread about it.”
He urged those spreading such “lies” to desist from doing so and added that their attempts to “misguide society are harming the nation”.
The two-day conference, also attended by union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, seeks to focus on issues of air pollution and better techniques of solid waste management and sewage water treatment.
It will also discuss the recommendations of a report by a high-level committee, headed by former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramanian, recommending review of the country’s green laws.
Reflecting on his ministry’s expectations from the meet, Javadekar said he hoped all states would partner with the central government in its effort to protect the environment.
“We have planned for quite an intensive interaction on all important issues of forest and environment conservation. We will definitely have a good, working outcome,” Javadekar said.
In his address, Modi also said India was ready to take the lead in fight against climate change but “people who lecture us on environment and the use of cleaner energy don’t give us nuclear fuel (for clean energy)”.
“These are double standards,” he said, adding that India has to take lead in thinking of ways to protect the environment.
“We must think of traditional methods to tackle environmental issues. There can be green solutions in our age-old traditions,” he said.
The prime minister sought to clear the “wrong impression” of India that it was not serious on environmental issues, saying the country had a culture in which the environment was equal to the divine.
“Respect for environment is in our DNA. As our ancestors have long served mankind, we should lead the efforts in protecting the environemnt. That should be our attitude towards climate change as well,” he said.
Encouraging people to adopt a healthy and clean-energy lifetsyle that could contribute to environment protection, Modi suggested the youth commit themselves to the use of bicycles for, at least, once a week.
He urged urban bodies to focus on solid waste management with programmes to generate wealth from it, adding that such authorities could recycle waste water and send it to farmers, who in turn would make use of it and provide other services like growing organic vegetables, which would make life easier for all.
The prime minister, who was presented a report on the status of tigers in India, expressed satisfaction on the increase in their number, adding that it reflects “India’s commitment to respect for nature”.
He also released a “Standard Terms of Reference for Environment Impact Analysis”, which was described by Javadekar as a step towards ensuring “ease of doing business”.
Modi also launched a National Air Quality Index, which will enable people across India to track the quality of air they breathe with the click of a button.
Available on the ministry’s website after the launch in 10 cities in the first phase, the colour-coded index indicating air quality will provide real-time data detailing the level of pollution in a given city.