Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday hit out at the developed countries for questioning India's credentials in curbing environmental pollution and said those who ‘lecture’ the country ‘refuse’ to provide nuclear fuel for clean energy.
Asserting that India was committed to promoting clean energy including nuclear, he said India has ‘not been’ sufficiently projected on the global arena and occasionally perceived to be a barrier in the global climate change fight.
The prime minister also urged the world to ‘ease restrictions; for India on import of nuclear fuel so that India could also produce clean nuclear energy in a big way.
In an apparent reference to western countries which are not providing nuclear fuel to energy-starved India, Modi noted the country has taken several initiatives in clean energy sector including solar and wind.
"See the irony.
“The world gives lecture on climate but if we tell them that we want to move forward in nuclear energy as it is a good path for environment protection and when we ask them to provide necessary fuel for nuclear energy, they refuse," he said.
Modi, who was addressing a conference of state environment ministers and officials, launched the National Air Quality Index in 10 cities to monitor pollution levels.
This comes in the backdrop of criticism by western countries on the very ‘unhealthy’ air quality in country's metros, including the national capital, which has been termed as
one of the most polluted cities prompting many embassies and other international establishments to install air purifiers.
The prime minister observed that ‘wrong’ impressions have been projected about India that it was neither concerned about climate nor environment.
"Everybody has come to believe that the world is concerned about climate change but India is posing hurdles . . . . We have grown up in an culture where nature is worshipped like God and protecting nature is linked to humanity.
"But due to some reasons, maybe we have been ruled by others for centuries, we are inhibited in expressing our point of view.
“Till the time we gain confidence in ourselves, we will not be able deal with the problem," he said.
Modi said protecting environment is ‘in our tradition’ and rather than following others, India should lead the world in finding solutions to the issue of global warming.
"India should be a global leader in the fight against climate change . Instead of being forced to follow parameters laid down by others, India should lead the world in the fight against climate change," he said.
The prime minister also stressed on bringing a change in the ‘lifestyle’ which has contributed to environmental damage.
"It should not be that we follow the world, follow the guidelines set by them. . .the truth is that we have a legacy of thousands of years in this field and we can lead the world and we can guide the world. India can show the way to the world out of this crisis," Modi said.
"Some people think development and environment are opposite. This thought is wrong," he said.
Noting that Indians have been the protectors and devotees of nature, he said there is a need to project this fact properly so that the world realises that India cannot be questioned in this regard.
"Indians have always conserved nature, and even today, have among the lowest per-capita carbon emission, globally," he said while observing that the culture of recycle and re-use is not new for India.
Referring to government's ambitious Clean Ganga initiative, Modi said state governments should not ‘compromise’ with the mission's objective and urged banks to lend money at lower rates for installation of effluent and sewerage treatment plants.
"If we successfully stop the pollution going into the 2500 kms stretch of Ganga, we can imbibe in people confidence that we can check pollution through normal efforts," he said.
He suggested switching of street lights on full moon night and use of bicycles at least once a week to conserve energy.
The prime minister also expressed happiness at the increase in tiger population of the country.
The National Air Quality Index launched by the prime minister will monitor the quality of air in major urban centres across the country on a real-time basis.
The air quality will be monitored in Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
Modi also released a ‘Standard Terms of Reference for Environment Impact Analysis’, which was described by Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar as a step that would contribute to ‘ease of doing business.’