Wake up Call from COVID: Need for Healthy Environment Policy

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Hon’ble Pradhan Mantri ji:

Sub: COVID 19 – Lessons to build Healthy Environment into our development policies

World Environment Day greetings in advance to you, sir!

We were happy to hear you speaking about the need to protect the Environment and the lessons that we learnt from COVID-19. We need to protect our bio-diversity.

The UN-driven World Environment Day has declared the theme - Time For Nature - for this year. We on our part have launched Time For Nature India public awareness campaign to spread awareness about environment care by one and all.

 The human cost of COVID 19 has been devastating, and the lockdown measures have turned lives upside down.  

The pandemic has, however, shown us how the Nature heals itself if there is no human intervention. Clean air, transparent river waters, pollution less streets and free birds flocking to water bodies.

While we grapple with the COVID 19 crisis, this is also a great opportunity for all of us to have a serious introspection and start learning to respect the nature.

We would like to draw your attention to the recent WHO manifesto for a green and healthy recovery from COVID 19, covering aspects such as protecting the nature, focusing on water and sanitation, clean energy, healthy and sustainable food policy, and stopping subsidising fossil fuels.

These deserve to be looked at in Indian context. The most important step is start respecting the nature and caring for it in our development plans and seriously focusing on sustainability, clean air and water rather than fashionably talking about them.

The subject environment deserves a fresh approach beginning with basic lessons to the policy makers who do not seem to realise the importance of wetlands, river regulatory zones, CRZ and mangroves.

First of all, the very process of issuing green signals has to be transparent and democratic and must take into considerations serious objections. Then, there has to be a strict monitoring of the projects which is sadly lacking now.

While drawing development plans for cities and infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports and so on we must integrate long-term public good and health into all aspects of urban planning, from sustainable transport systems to healthy housing.

In this context, we would like to briefly draw your attention to the recent anti-environment projects launched under the guise of development and request you to have corrective steps taken.

Green Police: We request you to take this up as a national project and take the initiative by setting up such special forces in Union Territories and lay guidelines for the States.

Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train project. This project is slated to literally run over and destroy 54,000 mangroves – equivalent to five-and-a-half Azad Maidans - and unsettle the entire bio-diversity of MMR which is officially confirmed.

Navi Mumbai SEZ: A big example of faulty allotment of land as wetlands and mangrove zones have been given to this project by CIDCO. NMSEZ, in which CIDCO is 26% partner, has destroyed thousands of mangroves and vast stretches of wetlands of Pagote and Bhendkhal and dried up Panje wetland.

JNPT and JNPT SEZ: The work on container terminal number 4 has resulted in killing of 4,500 mangroves for which the government (forest department) has already collected a penalty of Rs one lakh and filed a case in a Panvel court. Yet, JNPT’s work on the Terminal No 4 is on which is destroying mangroves, much against the environment clearance given by MCZMA.

Panje as Bird Sanctuary: The wetland has to be rescued from the clutches of NMSEZ. Our suggestion to declare Panje as Ramsar Wetland is pending with the Union Environment Ministry. We appeal to you to speed up the process of declaring Panje as a Bird Sanctuary and protect the wetland.

B N KUMAR

Editor & Director - NatConnect Foundation

http://natconnectfoundation.com/