Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday regretted that people’s pursuit of development had “irreparably” damaged nature and called for a popular movement to protect it.
He also called on the country’s lower courts to take an ecocentric view and to keep the interests of local people and biodiversity in mind when making judgments.
Naidu addressed a gathering after opening the “International Conference on Environmental Diversity and Environmental Law” at Chandigarh University in Mohali.
“In pursuit of development, we have irreparably damaged nature, destroyed forests, disturbed the ecological balance, polluted the environment, encroached on water bodies, and are now reaping the negative consequences,” Naidu said.
“My words may seem very harsh, but they are real. What is required is a mindset change. We have enough laws and enough regulations, but what is needed is a mindset change.
Unless this environmentalism becomes a global popular movement, the future looks very bleak,” he noted.
“We see the consequences. We played with nature and nature plays with us,” he added.
Naidu urged all stakeholders to strike a balance between development and maintaining ecological balance, and also appealed to lawmakers to consider the importance of protecting biodiversity, curbing climate change and formulating legislation that strikes a delicate balance between “Ecology and economy” uphold.
“It’s not just the government’s duty to think about it, it’s the duty of the people of Earth to save this planet,” he said.
Naidu emphasized that India has always been a world leader in climate protection.
He reiterated India’s commitment to meeting the ambitious national targets set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the recent COP 26 Summit in Glasgow.
“…Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated our national targets to increase our non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030 and to reach the goal of Net Zero by 2070,” he said.
“With supportive policies, institutional push and collective action, these goals are certainly achievable. The last aspect, ie ‘collective action’, is the most important. In the words of the Prime Minister, what we need is a mass movement towards green lifestyles,” Naidu said.
Naidu commended India’s higher judiciary for upholding environmental justice over the years, saying: “There are many landmark rulings by the Supreme Court and Supreme Courts that have played a crucial role in delivering not just environmental justice, but one public discourse on environmental protection.” He emphasized that even the lower courts must uphold this ecocentric view and include the best interests of local people and biodiversity in their judgments.
“They must be tough on violations of environmental laws and consider strict enforcement of the polluter pays principle wherever necessary,” Naidu said.
He felt that given the importance of biodiversity conservation, ongoing climate change and the growing demand for environmental litigation, there was an urgent need for more legal professionals to be trained in environmental law.
“The poorer sections of the population should be informed about their rights and the legal remedies available to them. If necessary, more specialized designations need to be established in different parts of the country and environmental justice brought closer to people,” Naidu said.
He emphasized empowering environmental protection agencies and local authorities with the necessary resources, technical expertise and criminal powers to effectively implement environmental laws.
“Gram Panchayats, who are constitutionally empowered to take actions such as water management, soil conservation and forestry, must continue to be funded to that end. The effective functioning of these grassroots-level bodies is critical to addressing the climate challenges of today and the future,” said the Vice President.
Referring to how Indian culture has always revered nature, Naidu said India enshrined principles of environmental protection in the constitution and passed many related laws “even before environmental discourse gained momentum in the developed world.”
“This spirit draws heavily from our ancient values, which see human existence as part of the natural environment and not one that exploits it,” he added.
The Vice-President also felt there was a need to raise awareness among students about the carbon and environmental footprint of their lifestyle choices.
“Humans have been tinkering with nature for too long. Today there is an urgent need to reverse this dangerous trend. It’s a mindset, an attitude, an ability to control human greed,” Naidu said.
Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Supreme Court Justices Justices Surya Kant and Justice Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai, National Supreme Court Justice of Brazil Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin and Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh Supreme Court Justice Mohammad Rafiq, were present on the occasion.
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