India is facing a severe risk from climate change. A recent report by Chirag Dhara, a climate physicist, shows that over the past 170 years, temperature around Kolkata rose by about 1.2 degrees Celsius. Add the high humidity in the region, and it becomes the country’s most heat-stressed part.

The mighty Himalayan range is expected to lose 36% of its glacier volumes by 2100 as per the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development report prepared under the Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme.

The same report also dispels the myth that climate change has the highest impact on rural communities. In northern India, cities are choking on pollution.

As India faces multiple threats from climate change and biodiversity loss, it becomes increasingly important for the country’s political parties to make these election issues. A look at the manifestos of the bigger political parties for the recently-concluded state elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Telangana brings out key gaps. Agriculture, water, food security, health and infrastructure make up the most prominent challenges the political parties want to address if voted to power. While biodiversity is integral to agriculture, water, human well-being, health and food security, it finds no space in the country’s election arena.

Some hints of political will on the issue of nature could be seen in the Congress’s Chhattisgarh manifesto, which speaks of the need for inclusion of intergenerational equity within the state policies to ensure sustainability of natural resources for future generations. Now that the Congress is in power in the state, it remains to be seen how many of these commitments will be fulfilled.

As for the upcoming elections in India, political parties must understand the country’s long-term needs. They can no longer talk about a single river, without talking about river-basin and watershed management; or agriculture and food security without the need to protect birds, bats and bees responsible for pollination as well as various microorganisms responsible for our revival of soil health; or health without committing to cleaner energy and air as well as better public transport.

Citizens must come together to build a people’s manifesto, which calls for action on biodiversity loss and climate change. The future of our food, water and land depends on our vote in this election. Only if biodiversity conservation becomes a national agenda will India be able to protect its people from poverty, inequality and injustice.

Richa Tyagi heads law and governance, WWF-India

The views expressed are personal

First Published:
Apr 15, 2019 01:22 IST

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