The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre must make a break from some policies of the previous governments while improving on delivery of government services under existing laws to improve sustainable and inclusive governance, urged the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a not-for-profit organization. The organisation released 'Environment and Development Agenda' in which it proposed a series of recommendations in the areas of air quality, revival of rivers, energy policy, and rural electrification and development based on its research. It recommended setting up an independent body to look at environmental clearances and to monitor compliance.
Sunita Narain, the Director General of the CSE, a member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority set up in 2009, shared data specifically on the pollution level Ganga river in 2013. Reducing pollution in the Ganga has been announced as a prime focus by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who set up an Inter-Ministerial Group on Ganga last month. She pointed out that because of industrial discharge and disposal of untreated sewage, the stretch of the river between Kanpur and Varansi had the highest levels of pollution even as in its “pristine” stretches in Uttarakhand, the river's ecological flow had been reduced.
Ms. Narain recommended that the government shift its focus from merely constructing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) to preventing and reducing discharge of waste and effluents. “Every river in the country is receiving sewage, and ever river is dying. Make ecological flow mandatory by measures such as making release of funds to states conditional on them releasing water into the river as per their discharge of waste, make sanitation top priority,” she said.
To improve the air quality, the government must bring the right fiscal policy on fuel, maintaining effective differential between petrol and diesel prices through appropriate taxation, and prioritising the public transportation agenda by beginning a “Million Bus” program, recommended CSE's Anumita Roychowdhury. “Thirteen of world's 20 worst polluted cities are in India, including Delhi. In Delhi, there are 25 million travel trips are generated by its people every day, Delhi
Metro can handle 5 million. What about the rest? At present, cars are taxed lesser which promotes private vehicles, while more environment-friendly forms of transport such as buses is taxed heavily as a commercial operation,” said Ms. Roychowdhury. “The new government must introduce Bharat Stage IV emission standards by 2015, and introduce higher parking charges as per the actual cost of using up public space for parking,” she added.
CSE's Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan emphasised that the government focus on increasing renewable sources of energy by setting up micro-grids rather than larger grids based on thermal power alone. “We need more rooftop solar plants, not large plants as have been set up in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The government must focus on decentralised renewable energy. Improving energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, industry will help conserve 25,000 MW,” he said.
CSE's publication Down to Earth's Managing Editor Richard Mahapatra pointed out that while rural development programs such as MNREGA under UPA had provided employment to 833 million and created 10 million water harvesting structures in villages – close to seven such structures per village – there was a need to provide incentives to villagers to maintain these structures.