New Delhi, Aug 18 : Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh today said that the multiple environmental crises that confront our country have created in many ways an alarming situation.
Addressing at the National Conference of Ministers of Environment and Forests here, Dr. Singh said: "Climate change is threatening our fragile ecosystems. We are staring at the prospect of an impending drought. Water scarcity is becoming a way of life. Pollution is a growing threat to our health and to our habitats."
"We have to make fundamental choices about our lifestyles," he said, assuring his audience that the "challenges are not insurmountable".
Terming climate change as a major global challenge, he said: "We are conscious of our responsibilities to both the present and the future generations. We seek to enhance the ecological sustainability of our development path."
The Prime Minister sought the cooperation of all State Governments to implement the eight missions that the Centre has outlined under the National Action Plan on climate change.
"I would urge each State Government to create their own State level action plans consistent with the strategies in the national plans," he added.
Speaking on need to modernize the existing Forest and Wildlife management system, he said that there are a large number of positions of frontline personnel lying vacant in many states in the Forests and Wildlife sector.
Underlining the need to ensure that local communities benefit from forest, conservation, he said, Tribals have guarded our forests for centuries. The Tribal Rights Act was the best way to guarantee these rights.
The Prime Minister expressed concern that rivers all over India were still being degraded. He referred to the increased allocation in this year''s national Budget to clean rivers, and asked state pollution control boards to curtail release of industrial effluents into waterways, "which account for 25 per cent of total pollution in rivers".
Drawing attention to the view that environmental clearances have become a new form of Licence Raj and a source of corruption, he said that this is a matter that needs to be addressed head-on.
"There are trade-offs that have to be made while balancing developmental and environmental concerns. But the procedures must be fair, transparent and hassle free. Decisions must be taken within a specified time," he said.
On discrepancies in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports, he said: "I would urge all the States who have not yet established State EIA Authorities to do so at the very earliest. Effective coordination between the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the State Ministry is vital if we are to build a credible and efficient system of assessment and clearance."
"The recent introduction of the National Green Tribunal Bill in Parliament is a positive step forward. This will strengthen environmental adjudication and settlement of disputes. We should consider setting up a National Environment Protection Authority supported by regional Environment Protection Authorities," the Prime Minister added. (ANI)