Critical environmental issues take backseat in manifestos in recent parliamentary elections

Critical environmental issues take backseat in manifestos in recent parliamentary elections

Biswabrata Goswami

MIDNAPORE, 12 JUNE: The recent parliamentary elections witnessed political parties acknowledging environmental issues in their manifestos, yet their primary focus remained on immediate concerns like energy usage and pollution control. Critical environmental issues such as environmental degradation, livelihood challenges, and broader climate change impacts were conspicuously underrepresented in electoral debates.

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Key environmental concerns including open-cast coal mining, air pollution, climate change, forest fire threats, policies concerning the Himalayas, the pending ‘Ganga Act’ for a pollution-free Ganga, preservation of small rivers, arsenic contamination in water, and access to clean drinking water, were largely ignored in the political discourse. While environmental organizations have raised these concerns with political parties, their influence has been minimal.

Notably, the BJP candidate for the Jadavpur constituency stood out by promising to develop area-specific ‘Climate Models’. Despite this, environmental advocates remain skeptical about the practical implementation of such models in Kolkata.

Environmental challenges are intensifying. The agricultural sector is facing a severe water crisis with rivers, canals, ponds, and other water bodies drying up during the scorching summer months. River water levels have plummeted, rendering many ‘river lifting pumps’ inactive, affecting regions like Murshidabad, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, North 24 Parganas, Nadia, and beyond. Groundwater, the last resort, is also depleting rapidly, as highlighted by the ‘National Compilation on Dynamic Groundwater Resources of India, 2023’ report.

In municipalities around the Ganga, water sourced from the river is in high demand, especially during summer, often outstripping supply and leading to daytime water supply stoppages. Residents have resorted to installing pumps at home to address the shortfall.

Environmental expert Dr. Pravat Kumar Shit explains that climate change is causing significant fluctuations in river and groundwater levels. Excessive water extraction by upstream states is exacerbating the drying of the Ganges and its tributaries. The disruption of natural groundwater replenishment through rainwater in small rivers and water bodies is also a growing concern.

Dr. Shit emphasizes the necessity of rainwater harvesting, groundwater regulation, water body preservation, and minimizing water wastage as crucial survival strategies. Historically, wetlands enriched groundwater by capturing rainwater, but current extraction rates far exceed replenishment.

In a positive turn, the Trinamul Congress MP from Ghatal, Deepak Adhikari aka Dev has launched an initiative to combat environmental degradation by pledging to plant trees based on the number of votes he received in seven assembly areas. Orders for saplings have been placed with ten nurseries, and approximately 200,000 trees will be planted in the first phase. Species such as Sal, Teak, Mango, Jackfruit, and Blackberry will be planted in various locations in Ghatal, with Dev personally starting the planting process as soon as the monsoon season begins.

This initiative by Dev offers a glimmer of hope and represents a tangible step towards addressing environmental issues at the local level. However, the broader lack of focus on environmental concerns in the recent elections underscores the need for a more integrated and sustained approach to environmental policy and action.

Tags: #CriticalEnvironmentalIssues #ParliamentaryElections #Bachseat

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