Vote for clean air, water security and nature conservation: Environment and civil society groups

The youth of the country will bear the brunt of climate change impact in the absence of government action, say voluntary groups.

The country is going to the polls in one of the most keenly watched elections of all time, and a collective of 70 environment and civil society organisations have appealed to voters to assess the threat to the environment and ecology when they cast their votes in the Lok Sabha 2024 elections. Here is what the organisations have said in a joint statement:

As Indians prepare to vote in the Lok Sabha elections this year, it is very important to think of the future of our democracy, especially the youth and their right to clean air and water security in the coming years, as our country faces extreme impacts of global warming, climate change, water crisis, scanty and unpredictable rainfall, melting glaciers and increasing pollution.

More than 70 environment, climate action, youth, forest and natural ecosystem groups from across India have asked all citizens to evaluate our country’s performance with respect to the environment and ecology in the last few years along with other important factors such as increase or decrease in quality of life, freedom of speech, democratic fabric of the nation, job creation, citizens’ rights etc. before casting their votes.

Signatories include:

  • National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
  • People for Aravallis
  • Youth for Himalaya
  • Climate Front India
  • Fridays For Future
  • Alliance for Rivers in India
  • Indian Social Action Forum
  • United Conservation Movement (Karnataka)
  • Aarey Conservation Group
  • Yugma Collective
  • Save Pune Hills from Maharashtra
  • Goa Foundation
  • Amche Mollem Citizen’s Group
  • Federation of Rainbow Warriors from Goa
  • Indigenous People’s Climate Justice Forum (Assam)
  • Affected Citizens of Teesta (Sikkim)
  • Centre for Research and Advocacy (Manipur)
  • Endangered Himalaya (Himachal Pradesh)
  • Van Gujjar Tribal Yuva Sangathan (Uttarakhand)
  • Dibang Resistance
  • Lower Dibang Valley (Arunachal Pradesh)
  • Borok Peoples’ Human Rights Organisation (Tripura)
  • Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (Chhattisgarh)
  • Jharkhand Kisan Parishad (Jharkand)
  • Bargi Bandh Visthapit Evam Prabhavit Sangh (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Jan Vikas Shakti Sangathan (Bihar)
  • UP Land Right Forum (Uttar Pradesh)

Read more: Oil spill in Chennai’s Manali area can cause irreparable damage to Ennore Creek wetland


Poor score on the environment index

Let us ensure that our vote results in safeguarding nature, upholding constitutional and democratic rights for all citizens and a secure future for the youth of India. Based on the latest scientific insights and environmental data, India ranks at the bottom of 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) of 2022 with extremely low scores across a range of critical issues.

On one hand, there are high-scoring countries such as Denmark, the United Kingdom and Finland that have shown longstanding and continuing investments in policies that protect environmental health; preserve biodiversity and habitat; conserve natural resources and decouple greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth showing notable leadership and policies.

At the other extreme is India at the bottom of the list with deteriorating air quality, rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater depletion, drying up and polluted rivers and water bodies, and mountains of waste everywhere.

India is vulnerable to the impacts of global warming and climate change, and many crucial laws protecting India’s environment and natural ecosystems such as the Forest Conservation Act and the Environment Impact Assessment Notification have been weakened in the last few years despite widespread public opposition.

Widespread exploitation of natural resources

Environment groups appeal to preserve the biodiversity of the country. Pic courtesy: Suzhal Arivom

Our forests, rivers, mountains and deserts in the Himalayas and Aravallis in the North, Hasdeo forest and others in Central and Eastern India, pristine rainforests in Nicobar Islands and the Western Ghats are being exploited for mega-infrastructure and dam projects, coal, stone and sand mining, and real estate.


Read more: The environmental hazards of Bannerghatta National Park’s proposed elevated flyover


Our country is facing a huge water crisis with 70% of our groundwater aquifers having dried up, with the rate of recharge being less than 10%. India has been declared as the third-most polluted country in 2023 according to a report released by Swiss air quality monitoring body, IQAir, falling from 8th position in 2022. Out of the 50 most polluted cities in the world, 42 cities are now in India.

From all our political leaders across different parties, we demand:

  • Changing the definition of ‘development’ in India. Development at the cost of our natural resources is not ‘vikas’ as it leads to the destruction of our pollution sinks and water security threatening the future of our youth and wildlife.
  • Ensuring protection of the ecosystems and community livelihoods in the Himalayas, Aravallis, Western and Eastern ghats, coastal regions, wetlands, river valleys, central Indian and north-eastern forest regions and not allow the corporate exploitation of these natural habitats.
  • Inclusion of community and civil society as central in all local and national development decision-making. No diversion of forest and agricultural land must take place without gram sabha consent.

Demands for environment protection

1) Reverse all dilutions in the environment and forest acts such as the Forest Conservation Amendment, Environment Impact Assessment Notification and others since 2014. Ensure full and effective implementation of the Environment Protection Act, Biodiversity Act, Forest Rights Act, PESA Act and similar legislations that uphold the rights of nature and indigenous communities.

2) Notify all wetlands under the Wetland Rules 2010.

3) Revive all the rivers, johads, lakes, ponds and other water bodies that have dried up across India and take up water recharge using traditional knowledge on a war footing to protect our nation’s water security.

4) Impose a moratorium on all projects pursuing interlinking and damming of rivers, blasting, tunnelling and cutting of our mountains in the Himalayas, Aravallis and Western Ghats, and conduct cumulative impact assessment studies and public referendums in the context of the same.

5) Implement a policy of using sustainable and alternative building materials in construction activities to stop the mining of our hills. Stop all mining activities close to forest and habitation areas so our wildlife and rural communities can live peacefully without the adverse health and safety impacts of blasting and mining, and our natural ecosystems are kept safe for our future generations.

6) Implement solid waste management (including segregation, recycling, reuse and reduce) rules. Set up STPs and ETPs to safely treat, recycle and discharge sewage and effluent water across all urban and rural areas.

We urge all Indians to keep in mind that real good governance enables public participation in policy making, reduces corruption and skirting of regulations, supports public debate reinforced by a free press and encourages citizens to push their lawmakers for greater environmental protections. Each of these drivers in turn propels countries down a more sustainable, just path.

This is based on a Press Release from the named collective of groups putting forth their wishlist, and has been published with minimal edits.

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