The Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, today called for ‘collective action’ from people, along with enabling policies, for limiting the impact of climate change. “To be able to achieve the 1.5°C global warming limit, we must aim at both macro-level systemic changes as well as micro-level lifestyle choices. We need a people’s movement for environmental protection”, he said.Calling for serious introspection and bold actions to mitigate the reality of increasing extreme events and diminishing biodiversity, Shri Naidu said that “it is not only the duty of the government to deliberate, but it is the duty of every citizen and human being on earth to save this planet”. The Vice President was inaugurating the International Conference on Environmental Diversity and Environmental Jurisprudence at Chandigarh University, Chandigarh.
Addressing the gathering, Shri Naidu stressed that India has always been leading the world in climate action. He reiterated India’s commitment to fulfil the ambitious national targets set by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow recently. Referring to how Indian culture has always revered and worshipped nature, Shri Naidu said India had enshrined principles of environmental protection in the Constitution and passed many related laws “even before environmental discourse gained pace in the developed world”. “This spirit draws heavily from our ancient values that look at human existence as part of the natural environment and not as one that exploits it”, he added.
Lauding the Indian higher judiciary for upholding environmental justice over the years, he suggested that “lower courts too must uphold an ecocentric view and keep the best interests of the local populations and biodiversity in their judgments”. He called for stringent action against violators of pollution laws and strict enforcement of the ‘Polluter Must Pay’ principle. Further, the Vice President stressed the need for honest implementation of laws, suggesting that “only passing laws is not sufficient, strict action against violators is equally important”. He suggested empowering Pollution Control Boards and local civic bodies with resources, technical expertise and punitive powers to implement environmental laws effectively.
Noting that the Constitution empowers Gram Panchayats in matters of water management, soil conservation and forestry, he called for better fund allocation for this purpose. “Effective functioning of grassroot level bodies is critical in handling the climatic challenges of today and the future”, he emphasised.Shri Naidu recalled that in earlier times, people in villages used to come together to protect the adjacent forests and to repair ponds and canals. “What we need today is a change in people's mindset. Unless environmental protection becomes a people's movement, our future is bleak”, he emphasised.Highlighting the contributions of the National Green Tribunal, Shri Naidu noted that with the growing demand for environmental litigation, there is an urgent need for training more legal practitioners in environmental law. In this regard, the Vice President called for making poorer sections aware of their rights and bringing environmental justice closer to the needy.
He suggested creating more specialised environmental benches in various parts of the country, if necessary. Stressing on the need to reverse the hazardous trend of exploiting nature, Shri Naidu appealed to lawmakers to take cognizance of the situation and make legislations that maintain a fine balance between ‘ecology and economy’. The Vice President also suggested that even from a young age, students must be made aware of the carbon and ecological footprint of their lifestyle choices. “Parents and teachers must teach children to care for their natural environment—flora and fauna around them—as much as they care for their physical environment”, he advised. Emphasising the importance of such international conferences, Shri Naidu said that “we have to learn from each other globally and adopt best practices from all over the world”.
He appreciated Chandigarh University for its initiative and hoped the conference will open a new chapter in environmental protection in the country.Shri Banwarilal Purohit, Hon’ble Governor of Punjab, Justice Surya Kant, Judge, Supreme Court of India, Justice Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai, Judge, Supreme Court of India, Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, Judge, National High Court of of Brazil (STJ), Justice Shri Mohammad Rafiq, Chief Justice, High Court of Himachal Pradesh, Mr. Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator of India, Justice Swatanter Kumar (Retd.), Former Judge, Supreme Court of India, Shri Satnam Singh Sandhu, Chancellor of Chandigarh University and other dignitaries were present during the event.