New Delhi: Environment think tank Greenpeace India on Tuesday sent to the NITI Aayog a plan to help build a climate-proof, equal, sustainable and resilient India as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. In its recommendations to government's policy think tank NITI Aayog, Greenpeace India stressed on the need to promote a decentralised model of renewable energy which will not only help to get universal energy access but it can also help mitigate climate crisis by replacing fossil fuel-based energy production.
"The government needs to support rooftop solar and other forms of decentralized renewable energy solutions that reduce the demand for coal-based electricity. Moving our energy generation sector from fossil fuels to renewables will help to prevent premature deaths and vast savings in health costs. Provide support to clean technology businesses affected by the crisis to help them sustain and grow," the environment think tank recommended.
Binu Jacob, Executive Director at Greenpeace India, said, "Green recovery would promote a sustainable and just society better than return-to-normal stimulus measures. NITI Aayog has advocated for sustainable development goals in the past, we are hopeful that the think tank body would seriously consider the green recommendations endorsed by citizens of the country.
The recommendations also called for promotion and increase in demand of electric vehicles, stating that as it will take some time to remove the fear of using public transport amongst people, who would prefer using their own vehicles, this is an opportunity to promote e-bikes and e-scooters.
It also suggested developing safer public transport to rebuild trust among people by providing clear guidance for safety and implement sanitation measures like cleaning regimes; issuing PPEs to drivers and staff; mandating face coverings for passengers; and increasing trips to account for limiting the number of passengers per ride.
"These recommendations reflect collective hope and confidence that the government will consider these areas seriously to turn this crisis into an opportunity and set the direction firmly towards building a climate-proof, equal, sustainable and resilient India as we emerge from this pandemic," Greenpeace said.
Besides promoting public transport, it also called for active and carbon-neutral vehicles like cycles and suggested that public transport be made free for all.
"Due to COVID-19, socially and economically marginalized people are the worst hit by economic slowdown and most of them can't afford the expensive mode of transportation. Public transport is a vehicle for mobility justice and public welfare at large. Therefore, once COVID safety measures are fully in place, public transport should be made free for all. This will help us to discourage the use of personal automobiles," the NGO said.
The NGO said that besides the pandemic, India is also witnessing extreme weather events like cyclones, floods, droughts and earthquakes.
"The pandemic has hit the world hard. We can understand that the government is trying to promote economic growth, better healthcare and repair the losses that occurred. At the same time, India is also witnessing extreme weather events in the form of cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes et al at an increasing rate in the past few years.
"Even in the midst of the pandemic, the country experienced cyclone Amphan which has displaced thousands of people in West Bengal and Odisha. We have seen that while all get impacted by climate change and COVID-19 pandemic, the poor in the society are more vulnerable," the Greenpeace said.
It said the question to the society is how should the development trajectory shape post-COVID-19 and added that Greenpeace India along with 29,174 citizens across the country reimagined a future which is environmentally resilient, socially just and economically equitable.
It said that it has been collating the recommendations since June 2020 as part of an initiative called "#TowardsBetter" in consultation with various stakeholders that include farmers, workers, urban dwellers and issue experts.
The NGO suggested boosting Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) in the COVID-19 recovery plans, by helping farmers build structures and capacities to increase SOC content in agricultural fields by up to two per cent by the end of 2030.
"This will also help achieve the 2030 commitment of restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land," it said.
Greenpeace also recommended incentivising protection and enhancement of biomass to stop crop residue burning.
"Burning of crop residue and cattle dung for cooking and farm cleaning purposes have huge health and environmental consequences. To positively restrict these unhealthy practices, the government should proactively invest in creating infrastructures that help farmers in converting these biomass residues into nutrient-rich organic fertilisers.
"The subsidies on biogas plants for cooking purposes should be increased upto 75 per cent for general farmers and 90 per cent for small and marginal farmers. This will significantly reduce the existing load on fossil fuels and the emission levels," it said.
Greenpeace India also expressed its desire to engage with the NITI Aayog as and when they require more research and development of the ideas mentioned in the green recommendations.
Greenpeace looks up to policymakers to drive these recommendations into concrete policies, it said in a statement.