Wednesday, September 17, 2014

PM Modi’s absence at UN climate summit: Is he a changed man? // Uma says ‘human excretion’ caused U'khand floods

With his absence at the UN climate summit, to be attended by 120 heads of nations on 23 September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would complete a dramatic transformation - from an early pioneer in climate change initiatives to a less enthusiastic national leader. Some even think that he now is a climate sceptic. It’s not just his absence at the summit that betrays his possible change of mind, but his remarks at the Sacred Heart University early this month. “Climate change? Is this terminology correct?” he asked. “The reality is this that in our family, some people are old... They say this time the weather is colder. And, people’s ability to bear cold becomes less... We should also ask is this climate change or have we changed. We have battled against nature. That is why we should live with nature rather than battle it,” he said.
These words are remarkable from a man, who as the chief minister of Gujarat, was the first in Asia to have established a separate department for climate change in 2009 and who has famously said that “for me, this is a moral issue. You don’t have a right to exploit what belongs to future generations. We are only allowed to milk the earth, not to kill it.” He even wrote an e-booked titled “Convenient Action” detailing his government’s response to climate change. “Climate change is definitely affecting the future generations which, as of now, have no voice on the actions of present generation,” he wrote in his book.
As part of his commitment to climate phenomenon and renewable sources of energy, Modi, as the chief minister, was also ahead of the national government in framing a solar energy policy. In 2010-12, more than 70 percent of the country’s installed solar capacity was in Gujarat. When he became the prime minister of India, climate change enthusiasts were happy that they have a seasoned champion at the helm of affairs.

Uma says ‘human excretion’ caused U'khand floods
With this background, the UN summit would have been an ideal international platform for him to emerge as a global leader on a truly global cause, but he chose not to participate. At least some part of the world thinks that it’s because he has become a sceptic. In hindsight, his earlier remarks that questioned the terminology and its meaning indeed appeared to hint at the shape of things that would follow.
“Is Narendra Modi a climate sceptic?” asked The Guardian. The article found that his earlier statements on the issue, as the Gujarat chief minister, and his stand now are at variance with each other. Referring to his reported no-show at the UN summit, it concluded that “he does not want to have a conversation about what India plans to do about it.” Has his new role as the prime minister of India, which incidentally has to respond to the needs of industrial development and economic growth, changed him? Seemingly, yes.
“So what’s changed? Since his election, Modi has dismantled a number of environmental protections, clearing the way for new coal mines and other industrial projects. He also blocked funds to Greenpeace and other environmental groups and is known to be vehemently anti-NGOs,” The Guardian wrote. “Even suggesting that climate change is just a perception is plain and simple bad science. While his actions, as yet, don’t suggest he is a skeptic his words too should not,” wrote Nitin Sethi in Business Standard.
As this report indicates, the situation in Gujarat, which was a pioneer in climate change initiatives under Modi, has worsened. Apparently, “the climate change department has all but collapsed, and as other states have caught up on Gujarat’s solar revolution, its share of India’s total solar capacity has fallen to around 40 percentProbably, with his affirmative steps in Gujarat, Modi had kept the bar of expectations considerably high and his speeches now don’t reflect the same enthusiasm. Probably it’s an issue of drafting better talking points. On the other hand, Modi, as the prime minister possibly has a whole set of new priorities that are at variance with the demands of climate change advocacy. As The Guardian noted, perhaps he doesn’t want to talk about it.
A year after floods devastated Kedarnath, Union water resources minister Uma Bharti has revealed the “underlying” cause of the disaster -- defecation near the shrine by non-believers. Her observations came during an interaction with experts – albeit bemused -- of the Dehradun-based Himalayan Institute of Glaciology and Forest Research Institute. Pointing out that human excretory activities were forbidden within the natural boundary formed by the Mandakini and Saraswati rivers which flowed near the shrine in 1882, Bharti said, “However, as time passed, atheists came here, mainly for business purposes. This resulted in nature’s fury at Kedarnath in 2013”.