India’s super stupid position on climate change

Response to Down to Earth editorial

Dear Sunita,

Another nice but particularly stirring editorial, which moves one to respond. I am sure you agree but as the heading for this post goes, I think India really has a very bad position on climate change. I have been of the opinion for a good many years now and only now getting to write about it. This post is not about your editorial alone but the general Indian position that the developed world needs to do a lot more before India will do something.

While there is truth in your castigation of the developed countries, I think the single biggest point of contention I have with you is about your statement Fact remains our constraint is the making of the rich world.”

The same has been the pathetic, sympathy seeking stance of the government of India for the past whatever years, a fig leaf over its complete disregard for taking a responsible position.

I think each and every constraint of ours is of our own making. In fact I would go ahead to say that our ability  to make constraints for ourselves is in fact responsible for the constraints of many other developing countries and also developed countries. Which in essence means that we have for half a decade been in a situation where we could have shown leadership on many issues thus paving the way for many others to emulate.

I get reminded about numerous small to big decisions which have a clear impact on climate change and resource consumption where there is absolutely no application of mind from an environmental perspective in India.

Smaller roads and streets in Mumbai are being paved with paver blocks made from cement. Previously the roads were made from asphalt bitumen and would keep developing potholes, arguably because of flooding but mainly because of corruption which leads to compromise in quality. All this while I am aware of well made asphalt roads in Mumbai itself which have easily lasted a decade. While I don’t have the number here but cement clearly must be having more embodied CO2 and accordingly the decision to pave the streets with millions of paver blocks is completely anti-climate change? No discussion in the city about this.

The Bombay Municipal Corporation saw great revenues in the past few years as a result of the economic boom and so the councilors decided to have a splurge. How much discussion on climate change takes place in the BMC? Now we will head for a recession, revenues will go down and then we will look for doles from developed countries. Squander your wealth and then beg in the streets of Switzerland?

Very much linked to the issue is what we do with the huge amount of construction debris we generate. Since 2003 I am aware of perfectly sound processes to convert the debris into BIS quality paver blocks. But the Municipal Corporation and authorities keep side stepping the issue. In the past 5 years massive amount of debris has been generated and disposed off (many in sensitive coastal ecosystems) which could have been reiutilised if not for roads then footpaths.

Another issue is of waste disposal. We continue to follow a super stupid method of pick and dump – thus running millions of truck trips every years, generating emissions, besides landfill emissions. All this could have been changed. But the SWM department is alleged to be the most lucrative thus inhibiting any progressive move. All this while 100s of people wait with alternate solutions and thousands of green jobs would be created by following decentralised and intelligent means.

These examples are just for supporting evidence. There could easily be a hundred such areas where your statement does not apply – Fact remains our constraint is the making of the rich world.”

I keep reading of the approximately 1.5 trillion dollars of Indian money stashed in Swiss Banks and wonder where is the funds shortage? Maybe we do not deserve a rap from the developed countries but we deserve a rap all the same – an even harder one from within.

The BIG constraint is in our intention.

I think that the time has come to substantially disengage from an ‘only global’ engagement policy and come to a very strong local engagement policy whereby we don’t wait for the Bali’s and Poznan’s and Copenhagen’s but are very strongly engaged within the country to coordinate efforts towards mitigating climate change. How often have we engaged meaningfully within the country to discuss climate change mitigation? How many of our bureaucrats and politicians understand or show the inclination to solve even the most basic of our problems – leave aside climate change. I have somewhere completely lost interest in what developed countries do or do not.

Hope you agree to some degree and consider it worthwhile to carry my views in the next issue.



About Rishi

I am a leading environmental activist in Mumbai, who has been closely involved with numerous issues in Mumbai since the late 90s, beginning activism in my early 20's. Over the years I have played a pioneering role towards the conservation of mangrove forests in Mumbai and worked on numerous urban issues in Mumbai aimed at improving the quality of life of Mumbai citizens. Solid waste management, tree cover, public transport, municipal budget and governance. View all posts by Rishi

5 responses to “India’s super stupid position on climate change


    Dear rishi,

    I agree with you to –many degrees- its the mind set=

    we have found the climate change as another tool in our begging bowl,clinching on conscience to make a day with- instead of taking head on with our technological and human supremacy to lay a road map for them to tread upon.

    And then look for ways and means to put in swish bank this booty of the bowl received or let it just lie unused.

    Thats what happens to every file made for the cause of environment or social upliftment.

    the minuscule seepage of it, is then boasted upon as part of election manifestos, while we continue face drudgery and get pride in dreams of slum dog millionaire.

    i am with you for the good – good of our present times.

    rakesh solanki

  • T. Ramakrishnan

    Dear Rishi,

    Very thought-provoking response to an equally strong article. I do not disagree with your basic point. But, in the name of reminding our responsibilities, we should not lose sight of the role that the United States or any such other nation is required to perform.

    • Rishi

      Thanks Ramakrishnan, nice to see your comment. I agree on the United States bit but like was my position during our trip that we should’nt end up in a position where they suddenly progress on climate change by leaps and bounds, towards which they seem better prepared than us. And we are caught unprepared even on the basics. Hope to catch up in detail.

  • Sanjay Chitnis

    I think there are two separate things:
    1. Negotiating with developed countries to hold them accountable for the mess they have created
    2. Being a responsible country. This is what we expect from ourselves.
    We should not mix the two. It is like when a neighbor is throwing garbage all over the place does not mean you keep on cleaning and absolve the neighbor. At the same time, we should also not throw the garbage.

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