Ahead of the October 31 UN climate conference, known as COP26, in Scotland, India Today TV Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to Maharashtra’s Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray. Excerpts:
Q: When we say we are facing a climate crisis, are we concerned? Or that the political class and segments of citizens did not understand the seriousness of the situation?
We are in the midst of a climate emergency. The time to act is now, if not yesterday. Look at events in the US, UK, Australia and Germany. In India, we saw what happened in Uttarakhand or Kerala or even Maharashtra. This is not an anomaly. These are certain patterns of climate change. Mumbai has faced massive amounts of rain in the past three years. It was a safe harbor for boats but we had three hurricanes. This has not happened in a hundred years.
Q: Mumbai is at the heart of India’s climate challenge, but we continue to see relentless construction in some environmentally sensitive areas.
The rest of India also faces a similar danger. We need to transcend the eco-panic tendency to protect the environment that climate science supports. We need sustainable development to combat climate change.
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Q: How will you investigate illegal construction and violations of the coastal zone?
We need to be strict about these violations, anyone who goes into the mangroves. The coastal road will be carbon neutral. We will have 96 hectares of open green space that will not be touched. There won’t be any building there. It would be a carbon sink for the city. There will be cycling and rainwater harvesting trails. We are also heating the coastal road. Fortunately, Premier is a wildlife enthusiast and believes in conservation. In the past two years, 9,800 hectares of mangroves have been protected. Going forward, we will be strict with our environmental standards.
Q: If you are going to participate in COP26, what are your two solutions for dealing with this climate emergency?
In India, we need to rapidly decarbonize transportation, largely public transport, and energy. The second is electric mobility. We are looking for zero carbon emissions in Maharashtra very soon. We have 43 cities where we do it the size of France.
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