So the great Indian election circus is back and we thought it would be a good idea to go through the election manifesto of major political parties to sift through and find what their stand is on environmental issues.
CPIM surprisingly has an entire section on environment and a separate section on water resources. It is by far the most detailed and comprehensive commitment by any political party which is perhaps not surprising because the communists (keeping their faults aside) are high functioning intellectuals and academics. But given the fact that communists are reduced to the status of a fourth party (after Congress, BJP, and AAP), their commitments don’t matter much unless a third front comes into power with their support.
This table puts the CPIM’s major perspectives on environment in brief-
“Increase public investments in agricultural production and research.”“Keeping sectors like health, education, water resources, banking and financial services out of GATS; Press for review of the TRIPS agreement.”
(This is interesting given the fact that India is already party to some disputes with these particular sections at the WTO but a review of TRIPS may not be so simple).
“Making the system and processes of Environmental Clearances atState and Central level effective, time-bound, transparent,accountable and free of conflict of interests.”
“Checking pollution of rivers.”
“ Stopping implementation of Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan
reports and set-up a broad based expert committee…”
“Taking steps to reduce emission of greenhouse gases through
effective regulation, energy efficiency in all sectors of production
and consumption; promotion of renewable energy such as solar and
wind; reducing energy inequality and promoting energy access for
economically weaker sections.”
“Amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 to ensure its universal application on all laws…, full and prior informed consent from all affected persons, binding social impact assessment and compensation .”
(Given the fact that the Land Acquisition Bill is far from perfect, this would be a very good step. The left has a history of enacting land reforms in West Bengal, the state which returned them to power multiple times.)
“Launch a National Soil Amelioration and Replenishment Programme along with sustainable management of water resources.”“Strengthening States to tackle natural and climate-related disasters, and to adopt and implement climate resilient development strategies addressing the needs of vulnerable populations.”
“New National Water Policy to be formulated.Treating water as a scarce public good, in such a manner as to increase water re-charge and water conservation while simultaneously enhancing water availability for domestic use, irrigation and industry through effective regulation and demand management; equitable provision of potable drinking water to all habitations to be accorded priority.”
“No privatization of water resources. Tackling depletion of ground water through more effective regulation, strengthening regulatory bodies and appropriatelegislation .”
The Congress for its part also has a separate section on environment. It brought in the NGT which although formally declared has not really found its voice. The Congress manifesto declares that the party will formulate a new National Environmental Appraisal and Monitoring Authority but given that similar bodies existed in the past and were highly criticised by the courts for their non-efficiency, it doesn’t make much sense to bring another one into the picture. The Congress manifesto is very general and does not bring specifics with regard to environmental conservation.
The table below presents the Congress viewpoint on environment-
Replication of plans like National Ganga River Basin Authority to clean major rivers of India.
Green National Accounts be put in place by 2016-17, which will reflect the costs of environmental degradation. Data on natural resources to be placed in public domain.
Revenues from forest-based activities to be shared with local forest dwelling communities.The Congress brought the historical legislation Forest Rights Act, into being the. Read more about it here.
The BJP has a very detailed section on energy, environment and natural resources but just like the Congress, it is a bit general and does not spell out specifics. Thankfully, in a country where every government reverses the policies of the previous party, the BJP has expressed its commitment to take the National Solar Program forward.
Their manifesto came out very late but the table below presents it in brief-
“…’Pradhan Mantri Gram Sinchayee Yojana’ with a motto of ‘har khet ko paani’. We will launch multi-pronged ‘water strategy’ for reducing farmer’s dependence on monsoon.”
“…ground water recharge harnessing rain water…”
A National Energy Policy to be formulated.
Promotion of carbon credits (the market is dead internationally), promotion of agro, social forestry etc.
Special attention to the Himalayas. “National Mission on Himalayas, Himalayan Sustainability Fund, Central University dedicated to the Himalayan Technology..”
“…national policies on critical natural resources like coal, minerals, spectrum,etc. – spelling out in black and white how much should be utilized at what time and pace…”
“…auction of precious resources…”
“Resource mapping, exploration and management will be undertaken…”
“ Inter-linking of rivers based on feasibility.”ground water examination to reduce pollution. “To ensure drinking water security to all.”
“Set up small-hydro power generation projects to harness the hydropower that is not being used atthe moment.”
The AAP has one section fully dedicated to environment. The main theme seems to be the devolution and decentralization of powers to gram sabhas which if enacted will be a revolutionary step. The Congress brought the Forest Rights Act which sadly couldn’t achieve this objective. Any party that can achieve this would be doing India a great service.
Dual ownership, major minerals with state and minor with communities.
Management of mineral resources done by gram sabhas.
Revenue sharing with gram sabhas.
Consent of gram sabhas in case exploitation of resource leads to displacement of communities.
Amendments in the Land Acquisition Act. One person to be given employment and it will be mandatory.
Which party’s manifesto do you think is the best with regard to the environment sector?