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RK Pachauri to Delhi: Give environment priority

RK Pachauri to Delhi: Give environment priority
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RK Pachauri To Delhi: Give Environment Priority. As Delhi gears up to usher in a new government, eminent environmentalist R.K. Pachauri is hopeful it...

New Delhi: As Delhi gears up to usher in a new government, eminent environmentalist R.K. Pachauri is hopeful it would give the sector "high priority" and reflect Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership in effecting a real change on the climate front.

"Whichever party comes to power should treat environment as a high priority because it's affecting the health of millions of people living here," Pachauri, whose Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shared the Nobel Peace Prize, told IANS in an interview.

Delhi, ranked the world’s worst polluted city by the World Health Organization in 2014, "needs a government with an unusual vision and leadership," he added.

"When Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat (between 2001 and 2014), he asked TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute) to train his senior civil servants on climate change," Pachauri, who heads TERI, said.

"He had the vision and, therefore, an understanding and commitment to this subject. I would like to see something similar done in Delhi," he added.

Air pollution in the national capital has risen to an alarming level in recent past but the issue hardly figured in the assembly election campaign.

The air quality index, as recorded by the US embassy on Feb 7, was found to be "very unhealthy" and at a level considered responsible for "significant aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with heart conditions and the elderly".

The general population could also experience a significant increase in respiratory effects in general population, the embassy website said.

The ministry of earth sciences recorded the PM2.5 levels to have averaged between 76 and 84 micrograms per cubic metre during US President Barack Obama’s three-day visit to India last month.

"The new government in Delhi should draw up a road map with measures to improve the air quality in the city... within the course of two or three years. That has to be a very important part of the action that the new government must take if it is interested in the welfare of the people," Pachauri said.

However, the BJP, the AAP and the Congress that ran aggressive campaigns ahead of the Feb 7 Delhi assembly elections, promised little on the environment front.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), in its 70-point Action Plan, vowed to check the deforestation of the Delhi Ridge, improve public transport to reduce the congestion by cars, provide incentives for low emission fuels like CNG and electricity, encourage car-pooling and a crackdown on fuel adulteration to reduce pollution.

The BJP said clean energy would be an area it would focus on, while the Congress promised to enhance Delhi's green cover by 25 percent and promote green buildings.

Pinning the blame on the voters for failing to stir a political debate on the environment, the 75-year-old scientists said: "The political class would deliver what the voters demand of them. And this is where I would submit that we (the people of Delhi) really don't have that sense of pride, belonging and connection with the city, to be able to demand these things and tell them that we won't elect you if you don't do this."

"Why is it that we don't articulate the importance of these such issues so that the political parties and their candidates can be held accountable for what they are going to do in this particular area," he asked.

"I would expect that the public would be asking questions of the candidates on what they are going to do to clean up Delhi's air. I am not too sure whether this has been part of the campaign," Pachauri added.

Highlighting lifestyle changes as an "important" option in the menu of action required to mitigate emissions, he said that would come about only if every individual realises how important it is to bring about this change, but "there is not enough passion on the ground among people to bring about lifestyle changes".

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