New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for cooperation on climate change with Africa while addressing the India-Africa Forum Summit.
Modi said that both Africa and India want to “light up lives of our people and power their future”, adding that it should be done in such a manner that “snow on Kilimanjaro does not disappear, the glacier that feeds the River Ganga does not retreat”.
“No one can be more conscious of climate change than Indians and Africans,” Modi said.
“We are each making enormous efforts with our modest resources to combat climate change. For India, 175 Gigawatts of additional renewable energy capacity by 2022 and reduction in emission intensity by 33-35 percent by 2030 are just two aspects of our efforts,” he said.
“But, it is also true that the excess of a few cannot become the burden of many. So, when the world meets in Paris in December, we look to see a comprehensive and concrete outcome that is based on the well established principles in the UN Convention on Climate Change.”
Modi said India will do its part for it, but also wants to see “a genuine global public partnership that makes clean energy affordable; provides finance and technology to developing countries to access it; and the means to adapt to the impact of climate change”.
He also invited African nations to join an alliance of solar-rich countries that India has proposed to launch in Paris on November 30 at the time of COP-21 meeting.
“Our goal is to make solar energy an integral part of our life and reach it to the most unconnected villages and communities.”
He also said that India and Africa should also seek a global trading regime that serves our development goals and improves our trade prospects.
“When we meet at Nairobi Ministerial of the WTO in December, we must ensure that the Doha Development Agenda of 2001 is not closed without achieving these fundamental objectives,” he said.
“We should also achieve a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security and special safeguard mechanism in agriculture for the developing countries,” Modi added.
About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad. He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.
His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).
“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.
“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.
The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”
The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.
“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.
In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.
Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.
“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”
Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.
“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.
Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.
“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)