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Mumbaikars see red on climate change

The Times of India, Mumbai,8th May, 2013

Climate change is no longer an environmentalist's concern. Erratic weather, change in temperature, depletion of air quality and wind patterns seem to be weighing on Mumbaikars' minds too.

A recent survey has revealed that almost eight out of 10 Mumbaikars have perceived indicators of climate change in their immediate environment. Change in temperature seemed to be most palpable for people, followed by changes in rainfall and wind patterns.

 The survey was conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute ( TERI) to gauge people's attitude towards environmental issues.

Climate change and indicators of a depleting environment are a cause of concern for most people. The survey findings indicate that 99% people feel air quality has depleted in Mumbai over the years, causing respiratory and skin ailments. Most people blamed poor air quality on factories and transport. Though there are policies to regulate it, an average 51% people feel there is no proper implementation in areas like air pollution, forest conservation and climate change.

Government apathy towards environment vis-a-vis development seemed to be a prime concern for people and environmentalists.

Debi Goenka of the Conservation Action Trust ( CAT) wondered why government policies are not climate-friendly. Goenka said it was only because of a high court order that people and activists have kept some open spaces alive in Mumbai. "If it hadn't been for the order to remove encroachments, we would have lost the (Borivli) national park to the city. Despite a high court order to preserve mangroves, there are petitions from the state government seeking relief for development projects," said Goenka.

Ironically, though the survey indicated huge awareness among Mumbaikars on environment and climate change issues, there was little that people wanted to do to start a change. For instance, when it came to water wastage, 51% people identified tap/faucet leakage as a key reason. A significant percentage of people did not want to segregate solid waste at their home and 66% people placed the onus of improving the environment on the government, followed by NGOs (40%) and businesses (14%).

Maharashtra chief secretary J K Banthia said, "The government has to strike a balance between development and environment. But awareness campaigns among citizens will also help a lot."