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Manifestos ignore green issues, activists complain (April)

 Political parties have shown, in their respective manifestos, lack of intent to address Delhi’s critical environmental issues. They have promised reduction of rising pollution levels, conservation of the depleting Ridge cover and revival of the almost-dead Yamuna. But, like in past manifestos, there is no roadmap. Environmentalists say the solutions are not practical and the manifestos mostly have vague and high sounding statements. Ravi Agarwal, former member of Delhi’s ridge management board, said, “Devil is in the detail. Political parties want to keep their options open.

 They never promise they would not allow land diversion from the Ridge because they want to build projects”. “Similarly, you cannot check air pollution unless you reduce the number of vehicles, like it was done in cities like London, and impose taxes for pollution and congestion. We need practical, hard measures,” he said. Manoj Misra of NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan said, “While we see merit in constituency-wise manifestos, these have to fall within a citywide framework, which seems to be missing. We need to restore the Yamuna, safeguard its tributaries (since converted into sewage drains)”. BJP's city manifesto makes some bold statements like not at all permitting dirty water to fall in the river, and yet manages to dream about boating in the river. “But it does not suggest from where the flow in the river for boating would come,” said Misra. Manu Bhatnagar of the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage said, “The parties had to fill the environment columns so they put something there. The successive governments did not do much about environment. The opposition also didn’t play its role.

 The river needs to be revived. We can forget about boating and tourism”. Himanshu Thakkar of the civil society group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People said, “BJP’s track record is very bad regarding rivers in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Congress has failed to check water, air and noise pollution in Delhi. AAP talks about giving people rights and responsibility under Mohalla Sabhas.

 This is welcome. Unless the local community is involved and given ownership, nothing will happen. Misra, however, said, “AAP is welcome in clubbing ecology and economy, and yet it fails miserably in matters of detail. We don’t know how the two would work in tandem and not at cross purpose”. AAP’s northeast Delhi manifesto doesn’t talk about the Yamuna, while the entire constituency is located on both sides of the river. Yamuna: 22 Delhi drains empty themselves into the river. Rs. 4,500 crore spent by Delhi, UP and Haryana for Yamuna's cleaning in 20 years, nothing changed Ridge: It has shrunk heavily because of encroachment and construction activity. Ridge helps keep the Capital’s pollution under check and shields it from sandstorms Air pollution: Level of particulate matter less than 10 micron in size has increased by 47% between 2000 and 2011, while the level of nitrogen dioxide has gone up by 57%. Noise pollution: an average Delhiite is exposed to noise levels as much as 70 per cent higher than what is considered safe.

 Hindustan Times, Delhi, Monday 7th April 2014