It is always refreshing to listen to President Kalam. Last year, in his Republic day address he spoke at length about India's energy dependence and the way towards energy independence. This year he touches on a wider variety of developmental issues. Two things caught my attention this time.
First is the project Siruthuli -Clean Kovai, Green Kovai. A grassroots project started by Coimbatoreans to help the city be green again. Plans include large scale rain water harvesting, reconnecting canals created during the Chera period, waste management and afforestation. Present day Coimbatore suffers from water shortage and ground water contamination. Friends of mine from Coimbatore will surely find this effort very encouraging. For those not familiar with Coimbatore, it is a city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. Once known for its pleasant climate and sweet water.
Secondly, President's take on the environment. He says,
Environment can become clean and upgraded only through the country wide active participation of citizens. People as a team can participate in cleaning the environment
Industrialists should follow the prescribed norms for environmental standards in all their institutions and make the buildings friendly to differently challenged people. Government employees should keep their offices and their environment clean as they would like to keep their homes. Parents and teachers should teach about the need for environmental friendly requirements to the younger citizens. Citizens can plant trees and nurture them in their neighborhood every year as a mission.
It is the responsibility of all the stakeholders including the citizens to promote cleanliness in all these public facilities.
I agree every Indian needs to be involved, but isn't it a little naive to leave everything to good intentions? I feel India needs a powerful Environment Protection agency. Not the Bush diluted version of US EPA. But an agency with teeth. The kind that can take on industrialists, politicians and citizens alike. IndiaTogether.org recently reported of an Indian Railways effort to extend railway lines into sensitive ecological areas without proper environment clearance. Such things happen because people know they can get away with it.
If all of India is to come together to improve our environment, there first needs to a strong and transparent regulatory framework.
Having said that, one cannot ignore the power of grassroots. It is estimated that India has about 1 - 2 million NGOs. I came across Project Green Hands recently (Hat tip: Anand). ISHA foundation planted over 7 lakh saplings across Tamil Nadu over a period of 3 days. Possibly setting a Guinness record. They plan to break that record this year in October.
You can read President's entire speech here