DU Beat spoke to Avinash Chanchal, Programme Specialist of Greenpeace India, about the global climate crisis and the student movement that has emerged to fight against it.
Juhi: All over the world, red flags are being raised about climate change and its consequences. How bad do you think is the situation in India?
Avinash: There is a climate crisis in India, especially with respect to air and water. In 80% of India, where air pollution calculating mechanisms are available, the air has been found to be below the standard health rates. Rivers in India are also much polluted and many small ones are even drying up. Erratic weather changes and heatwaves in India have gotten worse and studies show that we only have eleven years before it gets too late.
Juhi: Do you think the Government is adequately dealing with the climate crisis?
Avinash: The situation is not black and white. Recently, the Government has started to invest in renewable energy, and they are taking certain steps to combat climate change, but they need to do a lot more. The state Governments also need to realise the importance of this crisis and take actions against it. The Government also needs to prioritise climate preservation over big corporations.
Juhi: Do you think the general population of India is aware of climate change and the steps that need to be taken to combat it?
Avinash: Recently, more and more people have started to raise their voices, asking the Government to take action against climate change. In India, we have always had the indigenous people fighting to protect their “jal, jungal aur zameen” (water, forest, and land) but now, even the people in the cities have started to realise the need for preservation of the environment.
Juhi: What do you think about the recent emergence of the global student-led movement against climate change?
Avinash: The best part about this movement is that it is a citizen’s movement. The next generation is going to be the one to face the hard consequences of climate change, and have decided to take action against it. Greta Thunberg has managed to inspire students all over the world. Greenpeace stands in solidarity with the strikes being organised in September by students world over. They deserve a lot of credit.
Juhi: Many people in India work in industries that are harmful to the environment. And unlike big corporations such as McDonald’s, and Starbucks, the average Indian shopkeeper cannot afford to use paper bags and straws, instead of plastic. How realistic do you think, the goal to combat climate change is?
Avinash: We have always said that the move towards renewable energy needs to be phased out, creating new jobs in that sector. Also, investment these days in fossil fuel and coal mines is bad for our economy. As far as plastic is concerned, until 25 years back, before globalisation brought in big corporations and their plastic, Indians had managed to survive by using goods made out of bamboo sticks and banana leaves. Paper is not the only alternative to plastic. So, our climate preservation goals are very much possible.
Juhi: What has Greenpeace India recently been working on?
Avinash: We have many campaigns going on right now against air pollution and for renewable energy usage. We don’t want big corporations to get their hold on renewable energy; instead, we want to empower people with it. A while back, we also started a sustainable agricultural model in Bihar, which was 100% ecological. It has turned out to be a great success. Overall, we are able to do what we do, because of our volunteers and supporters, who come from all age groups. We need people to realise that the climate crisis is an immediate one and that dealing with it cannot be postponed.
Feature Image Credits: LiveMint