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Should Green activism be included in mainstream politics?

6 March, 2021 11:41:57
Should Green activism be included in mainstream politics?

The state Assembly elections are knocking at the door and all political party heads are busy finalizing their manifestos before launching their aggressive tirade. Like all earlier polls, each party is busy making a list of promises, gearing up to sell ‘dreams’ and a ‘clean’ image to the masses. However, no political party seems to be concerned about working for a ‘clean environment’ -- an issue vital for the sustenance of life on this planet, one that has been proved to be vital for human existence. Environmentalists have been working for years to sensitize political parties about a phenomenon that is no longer just a ‘global’ one. Drastic changes in the environment are taking its toll everywhere.

For years now, we have mistreated and contaminated the very environment that sustains us. The broad concern for the environment can be so overwhelming that we would be at a loss to   know what to do or where to start making a difference. The list of issues surrounding our environment seems endless, but there are three major ones that affect and jeopardize the future of the blue planet itself -- global warming and climate change, water pollution and ocean acidification and loss of biodiversity.

“Environment is the key to sustainable development. All political parties should show interest towards green initiatives in their election manifestos and see to it that those are implemented if voted to power,” insists Environmentalist and Green Technologist, Mr Somendra Mohan Ghosh who is also one of the key activists of the Save Rabindra Sarobar campaign.

On February 22, a dedicated group of Green activists including Ghosh, sent letters to 13 political parties in the state about the urgent need to focus on environment ahead of Assembly election campaign, including the ones on sound pollution. The activists specified several issues that hold the key to the future of the state and the city. They have asked individual parties to clarify how they plan to carry the Calcutta High Court direction of phasing out commercial vehicles older than 15 years, how they plan to introduce cleaner fuel like CNG for public buses. 

Seven cities in Bengal – Calcutta, Howrah, Barrackpore, Durgapur, Asansol, Raniganj and Haldia – have been classified as non-attainment cities by the Central Pollution Control Board because they do not meet the permissible air quality standards. Mr Ghosh said, “We say, think global, act local. Now is the time to buck up and act fast. We, in West Bengal, are facing a grave environmental situation that most people are either unaware of or are ignoring. Global warming is a universal issue that we cannot overlook any longer.”  Explaining the depth of the crisis, Mr Ghosh elaborated, “Due to an increase in temperature glaciers of Himalayas are on the verge of decline. The melting of Himalayan glaciers has increased in the last two decades and this has led to large-scale landslides and flash floods in the Himalayan region. Flash floods are among the more devastating hazards as they occur rapidly with little lead time for warning, and transport tremendous amounts of water and debris at high velocity. Flash floods affect thousands of people in the Himalayan region every year – their lives, homes and livelihoods.” 

Like all earlier polls, each party is busy making a list of promises, gearing up to sell ‘dreams’ and a ‘clean’ image to the masses. However, no political party seems to be concerned about working for a ‘clean environment’ -- an issue vital for the sustenance of life on this planet, one that has been proved to be vital for human existence.

Likewise, almost a year after the powerful and catastrophic tropical super cyclone Amphaan caused widespread damage in Eastern India, specifically West Bengal, and the state is still smarting under the devastation, all political parties should speak on the vulnerability of the people in Sundarbans due to climate change. Green Activist Subhas Datta recently voiced his concern for the fragile ecosystem of the Sundarbans post Amphaan and urged everyone political party to make it a part of their poll campaign and manifesto.

Large-scale destruction of mangroves, which act as natural barriers to storms, has made the villages in the Sundarbans vulnerable to cyclones. Saline water from the sea is flowing further upstream and destroying acres of agricultural fields, completely ruining the income source of villagers. Besides, if the sea level rises and saline water enters the Hooghly, it will have multiple negative consequences. Studies suggested a warming climate could bring more destructive cyclones as there would be extra heat in the oceans and atmosphere. Hence, there is a need for clear climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and actions.

“If the political parties continue to disregard issues pertaining to climate changes, we will see a surge of environmental refugees in the future. At present, the citizens versus migrants is a burning issue that’s part of the political manifestos of all parties, but have they ever thought about a situation when the government will be faced with a sudden and huge influx of refugees who will be displaced due to natural disasters, putting immense pressure on an already fragile economy?” both the activists added.  

“We want the parties to commit on crucial environmental matters. It should be made compulsory in the party manifesto so that the candidates, who commit before the polls, do not forget their promise after they win.” They even pointed out the situation of Maidan ground post a huge election rally held recently. The ground lay in a sorry state with banners, flags plastic bottles and cups strewn all over for days. The Green activists requested the Election Commission of India to take action and define certain rules for political parties to be more responsible in such rallies. One could even file suo moto case in the National Green Tribunal Court to make political parties accountable. Indeed as many state polls including that of West Bengal are nearing, all politicial parties need to look into a better tomorrow. 

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