Each district in Maharashtra will have a green plan

Maharashtra government is committed to follow norms recommended by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), will pull up environment offenders.

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Each district in Maharashtra will have a green plan

The Maharashtra government on Saturday committed itself to following strict environmental norms as recommended by its newly-appointed consultant, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). “We are the first state to have a consultant to conduct an overall environmental assessment, which will give an insight into agricultural, coastal and rainfall patterns for the next five years.

TERI will give the government of Maharashtra an action plan for global warming. We will have a committee headed by the chief secretary to monitor implementation of the recommendations,” said Suresh Shetty, minister of state for environment.

Shetty revealed this at the State Summit: Vision for a Global Maharashtra, organised by DNA and Zee 24 Taas, during a debate titled Green Maharashtra. The panellists in the session, chaired by Shetty and moderated by former union energy minister Suresh Prabhu, included Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule, secretary for environment, Valsa Nair-Singh, green activist Debi Goenka.

Prabhu said that it was time the state took a fresh look at environmental concerns, and in a holistic manner. “They need to have an environment advisor in every ministry, similar to finance advisor to plan budgets and get clearances from the finance ministry. It is the need of the hour and before every project is passed, the environmental advisor can recommend norms well in advance,” he said.

Prabhu even brought to the notice of all panelists that laws are in place and, in fact, very stringent in India, but it is the monitoring or implementation that is lacking.

Addressing these concerns, Shetty welcomed Prabhu’s suggestion for an environmental advisor in every ministry. Meanwhile, secretary for environment Valsa Nair said that in order to make the monitoring more stringent, there will soon be a National Environment Protection Authority (Nepa) and a National Green Tribunal.

“In many European and western countries, we see that offenders have to cough up fines up to 80% of the project cost. We fall short here in that. Now, we will soon have the NEPA and the tribunal which will be given sweeping powers to act against the polluters.

This will be a boon to environmental administrators," said Nair. She said that there is hardly any self-regulation among the industries here. "We see them disposing of their hazardous waste directly into the nullahs at night. We do not have staff for 24-hour monitoring, so we expect environmental auditing and self-regulation by the industries."

"There will be an environment committee in every district. They will have to submit their plans to the sub-committee. The industries will be given a time frame to follow the norms and will have to do an environmental audit. Moreover, regular cleaning of lakes and rivers would be undertaken,” assured Shetty.

Debi Goenka, eco-activist, said environmental degradation has contributed to national loss, which does not get reflected in our economy or GDP. Quoting from a report filed by Deutsche Bank, he said, "Although we claim to have 8-10% GDP, this does not reflect the environmental degradation."

Supriya Sule pointed out that the state had failed to take the issue of environmental conservation to the grassroots level. "It is absent in rural areas. Environment is affecting every sphere of our life and we need to look at it more holistically," said Sule.

Sule said that the biggest challenge to the urban-rural divide is dumping of garbage and creation of chemical zones in rural areas. "Garbage dumping is such a serious issue that even an uneducated woman in my rural constituency opposes plans to give up her land for a dumping ground. The impact of chemical zones due to garbage dumping is clearly understood by those living in the hinterland. We have to address this immediately," said Sule.

Sule said another national concern should be food security, as every rise in the temperature can affect the mass crops grown in this country. "Environment is important because it affects food, water and rains. We grow most amount of wheat. The impact of global warming can be so extensive that if there is an increase of even one degree in our temperatures, over 600 tonnes of wheat will be affected every year," said Sule.

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