NEW DELHI: Amid mounting concerns over the poor air quality in the nation’s capital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a National Air Quality Index to monitor air quality in India’s big cities and suggested that developed nations should not “lecture” India on clean energy unless they were ready to provide it with access to nuclear fuel.
The Air Quality Index has been launched for 10 cities — Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad — and will later be extended to 22 state capitals and 44 other cities with a population exceeding one million.
Addressing a conference of state environment ministers, Modi said the irony was that the world gives lectures on climate, but if India says it wants to move forward in nuclear energy as it is a good path for environmental protection and when it asks them to provide the fuel for nuclear energy, they then refuse.
“Everybody has come to believe the world is concerned about climate change, but India is posing hurdles… We have grown up in a culture where nature is worshipped like God and protecting nature is linked to humanity.
“But, due to some reasons, maybe we have been ruled by others for centuries, we are inhibited in expressing our point of view. Till the time we gain confidence in ourselves, we will not be able deal with the problem,” the Prime Minister said.
Modi’s assertions come in the backdrop of criticism by Western countries in particular of the “unhealthy” air quality in the country’s metropolitan cities, particularly New Delhi, which has been categorised as one of the most polluted cities in the world.
The PM said India should be a global leader in the fight against climate change instead of being forced to follow the parameters laid down by others.
“It should not be that we follow the world, follow the guidelines set by them… The truth is that we have a legacy of thousands of years in this field and we can lead the world and we can guide the world. India can show the way to the world out of this crisis,” Modi said.
The PM’s remarks come ahead of a crucial UN meeting on climate change that will take place in Paris later this year.
Modi also blamed the changing lifestyles of people as one of the key reasons for environmental degradation, saying that increasing consumerism was at the root of the climate crisis, advocating the practice of the country’s age-old traditions in order to fight it.
“I have said it many times … that we are making all the rules to curb carbon emissions… But we are not willing to change our lifestyles.
“The root of the problem is that humanity has kept increasing its consumption, and nature is harmed most where the consumption is the maximum,” he said.
Modi also suggested that a day like Sunday should be promoted for cycling to save energy and took a dig at his critics, saying they would now “accuse” him of being an “agent of cycle manufacturers”.
He also made it clear that India could not be forced to “follow” the parameters laid down by the developed world on climate change; instead, it should lead the world in the fight against it.
The PM also used the occasion to accuse the Opposition parties of misleading the people on the issue of tribal and forest land, saying such a campaign will hurt the interests of the country.
“The land bill has no mention… There is no word on tribal and forest land in the bill. The tribals and their land do not come under the ambit of the land bill. Still, people who lack knowledge run this (campaign) 24 hours… They do not know,” Modi said. – From Asian Age