Politics clouds environmental
issues in Delhi poll
By Prashant Nanda
Note: Environment and climate change are among the most important
challenges facing humanity today, but have they become key
political issues in India? IANS examines how political parties
treat them in the current state assembly elections. These
reports were produced as part of the Knight International
Journalism Fellowship's Climate Change and Media Programme.
Delhi, Nov 27 (IANS) A road and a river that symbolise the
capital's environmental malaise are the only issues of ecological
relevance to emerge in a tumultuous state assembly campaign
defined by terrorism and the economy.
The polluted Yamuna river and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
corridor on an arterial road make a low key appearance in
the poll debate of a state beset by numerous environment problems.
BRT, which comes up in the manifestos of both the parties,
has earned the ire of south Delhi's well-off who travel by
car because the special bus lanes have reduced road space
for all other vehicles. The special corridor is an attempt
to speed up public transportation and cut the number of people
using private vehicles.
of the protests, the BRT was put on hold when it reached its
current five-kilometre length.
Congress Party promises to fix BRT's problems and extend it
further, while the BJP wants to scrap it in its present form
and do more research and planning before allowing it to operate.
leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra told IANS: "The bus corridor
was made in a very unscientific and unplanned manner. They
(Congress government) have wasted a lot of money."
he added, "It will not be totally scrapped. It is important
to improve it."
Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said: "We stopped
the BRT corridor work because there was some minor problem,
mainly operational problem. We will rectify it and BRT is
certainly on our cards. We will not scrap it at all. It's
good for the city."
intention of the (BRT) effort was good as it aims at cleaning
environment," she said.
it is viewed mainly as a traffic issue, "BRT is really
an environment issue," said Chandra Bhushan, associate
director of the Centre for Science and Environment.
are contradictory views of the Congress and the BJP on the
existence of BRT. I think it's good from the environment point
said that her party, if voted to power for the third consecutive
term in Saturday's elections, will boost public transportation
to reduce pollution in a city choked by 5.2 million cars.
"Metro Rail has reduced the pollution level in Delhi
and it will be expanded further," she said.
Yamuna, which flows through the capital, the BJP manifesto
says: "Yamuna is integrated to life in Delhi, but during
the Congress rule our holy river has been virtually converted
to a dirty drain. The Congress has grossly ignored cleaning
of the Yamuna in its 10-year-long rule.
BJP will give utmost importance to the beautification of the
Yamuna and making it pollution-free."
"knows her limitations and what she has not done in last
10 years," said a state Congress leader, who did not
want to be named.
them during election time will only backfire. So, she is focusing
more on Metro trains and low floor buses (which are cleaner
and carry more passengers),"
Malhotra also said that if elected, he would extend the present
18 percent green cover of Delhi - the forests and wooded areas
- to 33 percent.
Dikshit, who oversees the state environment department, has
been silent about it.
said political parties and people in the capital are equally
responsible for environment issues receiving low priority.
"Political parties know that talking about the Yamuna
will not bring them votes," he said.
another environmental activist disagreed. Ravi Aggarwal, director
of an NGO, Toxic Link, said: "It's a sad situation. While
environment is definitely an issue from people's perspective,
its not an issue for politicians."
water management, air quality, landfill management and the
Yamuna are big issues and are impacting public life, but parties
don't see it," he said, adding it's sad that "with
no one pushing for environment, people really don't have a
choice whom they should vote for ".