n the past fifty years or so we have comeface to face with unusual climaticoccurrences, weather changes andenvironmental disasters. These are acorollary of the global pursuit of rapid growth, inparticular rapid growth of industrialisation and, veryoften, the mindless and predatory exploitation ofnatural resources to sustain such patterns ofdevelopment and industrialisation. These havehappened across the world, without distinguishingbetween rich and poor nations. There have been unprecedented heat-waves in the United Statesand Europe, devastating floods in China andtsunamis in South East Asia and more recently inJapan. All of these have highlighted the vulnerabilityand helplessness of human beings confronted withthe wrath of nature. The United Nations Conference held at Stockholm in1972 marked the first major international event todeal with environmental issues. But securing globalcooperation for the protection and preservation of theenvironment has proved quite difficult, as eachcountry has sought to protect its own perceivednational interest. There has also been a dividebetween the north and the south, which theinternational community has failed to bridge thusfar. Protecting and preserving the environment is nota divisible task, as the acts of omissions andcommissions of one nation or one set of peopleimpinge on the others and vice-versa. Therefore, allcountries, both rich and poor, developed anddeveloping, countries of the north and countries ofthe south need to cooperate in this sort of globaleffort. In general, in the increasingly integrated worldthat we live in, we have to devise co-operativesolutions to deal with the pressing emerging globalchallenges and concerns. Environment and climateANATIONALAGENDA FORENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION132G20 MEMBER COUNTRIESDR MANMOHAN SINGH, PRIME MINISTER, INDIAIPhoto: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
" "IT IS NOLONGER ACCEPTABLE TOTAKE AS GIVENTHAT A CERTAINDEGREE OF ENVIRONMENTALDEGRADATION AND OVER-EXPLOITATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES INTHE CAUSE OFPROMOTINGGROWTH IS INEVITABLEG20 MEMBER COUNTRIES133Below: Dr ManmohanSingh (right) and UN Secretary GeneralBan Ki-moon (left)change certainly belong to this class of issues. In thiscontext the development of new environment-friendly technologies is going to play a very importantrole. The task ahead, as I see it, is to design a systemof intellectual property rights which providesadequate incentives to invest in the development ofnew environment-friendly technologies and at thesame time ensuring that these technologies becomeavailable to poor countries at affordable cost. Sustainable development has been accepted widelyas the strategy that marries the aspirations for growthand development with preservation of theenvironment. Perhaps, it has been interpretedsomewhat narrowly as the ability to meet efficientlythe needs of the present generation, withoutimperilling the ability of the future generations to doso. The concept of sustainable development,however, appears to be larger than just a nation'sability to produce enough to meet its needs. It isabout how we collectively address the growingconcerns regarding climate change, resourcemanagement and what we bequeath to our futuregenerations in terms of knowledge, skills and life-style that they can use to protect the environment,while they pursue their objectives of growth anddevelopment. Only then would we have contributedto the advancement of civilisation and given anenduring legacy to the forthcoming generations. In the public mind, there has always been a trade-offbetween economic growth and environmentalsustainability. But, this view is changing slowly asmore and more people are reviewing their notions ofwhat constitutes growth. In fact, the very definitionof growth has been enlarged to accommodateenvironmental and related concerns. There is nowgeneral agreement that environment cannot beprotected by perpetuating the poverty of developingcountries. Their basic concern is with developmentand this is as it should be. But it is also no longeracceptable to take as given that a certain degree ofenvironmental degradation and over-exploitation ofnatural resources in the cause of promoting growth isinevitable. It is no longer possible to treat theenvironment with passive disregard. And it is nolonger tenable to pretend that these are concernsonly for the other or wealthier nations. In the last four years our government has formulateda national agenda for environmental protection tomeet the challenges of disaster management andclimate change. We have a target for greening 10million hectares of forest land to increase incomes of the poor through a national Green India Mission.Action for generating over 20,000 MW of solarenergy by the year 2020 is underway. Our mission for enhanced energy efficiency will hugely reduce theneed for capacity addition. Our mission forsustainable habitat will develop standards for greenbuildings which we intend to make integral to our municipal laws. Our missions on sustainableagriculture and water conservation will increaseproductivity of dry land agriculture as well asincrease efficiency of water use. All these steps will cumulatively lead us to a low-carbon growthpath. These are steps that we have decided to take on our own as responsible global citizens. Weare not waiting for an international consensus toevolve through ongoing negotiations on globalclimate change. In recent years we have also accelerated efforts toenhance our capability to manage disasters. Theenactment of the Disaster Management Act in 2005enabled the setting up of institutional mechanismsfor disaster preparedness and mitigation. We havealso tried to share our expertise and experience withthe other countries of the world. As a signatory to theInternational Charter on Space and Major Charters,India extends its space capabilities to acquire data ofthe location of disasters anywhere on the globe andshare the same with the affected country or countrieson a priority basis. We also provide training indisaster management to personnel of othercountries, especially those in our neighbourhood. We believe that the cause of environment cannot be furthered merely by exhortation. It also needs the strength and conviction demonstrated by concrete national legislation. We, in recognition of our commitment to this cause, have enacted acomprehensive law establishing and empowering aspecialised tribunal for the settlement of a broadspectrum of environmental cases of civil nature. Wehave joined a handful of forward looking countries tohave such a dedicated mechanism. This tribunal has started functioning and I expect itwill help to reduce the workload of our courts. Wealso hope to establish an independent regulator -theNational Environment Appraisal and MonitoringAuthority soon. This authority could lead to acomplete change in the process of grantingenvironmental clearances. Staffed by dedicatedprofessionals, it will work on a full time basis toevolve better and more objective standards ofscrutiny. I must also mention that but for theenduring wisdom of our judiciary, we would not havethe bulk of what we proudly call "environmentaljurisprudence". The nineties witnessed remarkablechanges in India. Rapid growth and industrialisationwere underway as a result of the newly liberalisedeconomy. At times like this, many nations might havechosen to bear silently the depletion of the nation'snatural resources as the cost of doing business butwe did not compromise on these concerns.nThe above remarks are extracted from Prime MinisterManmohan Singh's address at the Valedictory Session ofthe International Seminar on Global Environment andDisaster Management in New Delhi on July 24, 2011.