India will demonstrate to the world that “we are serious about climate change” through a set of new initiatives -- the first being the setting up of a world-class institute in Bangalore to carry out research on climate, global warming and its impacts on the economy and environment.

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh told journalists here on Sunday that the “National Institute for Research on Climate and Environment” would help build India’s own capacity for measuring, monitoring and modelling climate at a time when most information on global warming was derived from the West.

The institute would use space-based and ground-based observation systems to create an indigenous “nucleus” for research into all issues relating to climate, including the impact of climate change on aspects of the economy such as agriculture and water, Mr. Ramesh said .

The institute would be a joint initiative of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests (MoEF).

“The aim is to build a world-class institute, which will serve as a data hub on all issues relating to climate,” Mr. Ramesh said adding that formal approval from the Centre was expected shortly. The project would receive an initial funding of Rs. 40 crore.

ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said he hoped to initiate the programme this financial year.

Satellite monitoring

Mr. Nair said two satellites would be launched between 2010 and 2011 to measure and monitor greenhouse gases. While a micro-satellite would be launched in 2010 to study aerosols, another dedicated satellite in 2011 would monitor greenhouse gases such as methane and trace gases. With this India will “demonstrate to the world that we are serious about climate change” and will place itself in the league of a few countries such as Japan and some European countries that have such initiatives, Mr. Ramesh said .

Green bonus

A new mechanism is being proposed to provide incentives to States to retain and expand green cover, said Mr. Ramesh. Towards this end, a “green bonus” would be given to States along with funds from the Planning Commission or Finance Commission.

“There needs to be sensitivity on the part of the State governments about forest cover,” he said adding that of paramount importance were forests of the Western Ghats and the northeast. “I have written twice to the [Karnataka] Chief Minister not to proceed with Gundya [hydel power project in the Western Ghats].”

ISRO will also assist in monitoring the Himalayan glaciers which are of vital importance for water security, said Mr. Ramesh. “There is much concern about the retreating Himalayan glaciers. But we do not have programmes of our own to monitor the area. Western research focuses primarily on the Arctic glaciers which are fundamentally different.”