Written By Gopal Krishna on Sunday, April 19, 2009 | 4:54 AM

There cannot be and there should not be any dispute about the validity of “principle of historical responsibility” stated by Shyam Saran, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister to media during UNFCCC Climate Change Talks in Bonn on April 7, 2009 in the ongoing multilateral negotiating process leading up to the 15th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen during 7-18 December, 2009.

But the facts stated in the election manifesto of Indian National Congress released by Sonia Gandhi on March 24, 2009 are disputable. The manifesto notes, “The Congress-led UPA government has already unveiled a National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC). It is an acknowledgment of our responsibility to take credible actions within the overall framework of meeting the development aspirations of our people for higher economic growth and a higher standard of living. This action plan will be implemented in letter and spirit.” Evidently, the letter and the spirit of the NAPCC are caught in a time warp.

A document titled “THE ROAD TO COPENHAGEN: India’s Position on Climate Change Issues” published by Public Diplomacy Division, Union Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India dated February 27, 2009 with a foreword by Shyam Saran states, “subjecting national aspirational efforts to an international compliance regime may result in lower ambitions” and “inability to reach a certain target for renewable energy use under a national plan, would have very different consequences than a similar legal obligation under an international agreement. The two cannot be equated.”

Clearly, the National Action Plan for Climate Change that the Prime Minister unveiled on June 30, 2008 with its eight missions including National Water Mission that finds mention even in the Congress Party’s manifesto is just a statement of voluntary action, intent and aspiration. It is not mandatory for any agency be it governmental or corporate to act according to the action plan and thus it does not constitute what the manifesto promised as “credible actions” within any framework.

It is a well-known fact that even the reports brought out by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is more of a politically acceptable scientific survey rather than a purely scientific study. The latter would have called for more radical measures with regard to steps required to stop ongoing dangerous interference with the atmosphere due to current model of industrialization and urbanization that is highly inconsistent with thousands of years of human wisdom. In such a scenario, when a consensual scientific document based on broader political unanimity calls for reversal in business as usual practices it would have seemed natural for countries like India to act not because of some international requirement but because it is in one’s own supreme national interest. It is inconsequential for citizens whether some international humanitarian law is being followed in letter or not, what is of consequence is whether or not its governmental actions factor in the spirit behind a law that will have ramifications not only for the present generation but also for the future generations. The response of Government of India neither follows the former nor the latter even when Chapter 10 (page no. 493), Working Group II Report "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability", IPCC Fourth Assessment Report states, “Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005). The receding and thinning of Himalayan glaciers can be attributed primarily to the global warming due to increase in anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases. The relatively high population density near these glaciers and consequent deforestation and land-use changes have also adversely affected these glaciers. The 30.2 km long Gangotri glacier has been receding alarmingly in recent years. Between 1842 and 1935, the glacier was receding at an average of 7.3 m every year; the average rate of recession between 1985 and 2001 is about 23 m per year (Hasnain, 2002). The current trends of glacial melts suggest that the Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra and other rivers that criss-cross the northern Indian plain could likely become seasonal rivers in the near future as a consequence of climate change and could likely affect the economies in the region. Some other glaciers in Asia – such as glaciers shorter than 4 km length in the Tibetan Plateau – are projected to disappear and the glaciated areas located in the headwaters of the Changjiang River will likely decrease in area by more than 60% (Shen et al., 2002).”

Despite this Government of India in its wisdom feels that the fate of “About 15,000 Himalayan glaciers which supports perennial rivers such as the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra”, which remains “the lifeline of millions of people in South Asian countries (Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh)” merits only non-serious, unaccountable, irresponsible and even nationally legally non-enforceable responses to combat an ecological crisis that is bound to turn into a humanitarian crisis. In its frozen passivity and insensitivity, it is promoting only insincere paper work although Ganga basin alone is home to 500 million people and they are already facing great distress due to multiple ecological problems emerging from blind industrialization and urbanization.

Nothing mentioned in documents being manufactured by the government shows that their current action factors in how climate change creates a compelling logic for conservation measures and policy reversals. It appears to the Government of India that the entire wisdom of the citizens rests with organisations like The Energy Resources Institute. Even key ministries like Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj not consulted at any stage but like Panchayats even their ministry is dismissed indeed reflecting “a major lacuna” in what the Panchayati Raj Ministry wanted to do “to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change on local communities”. It surprising that pre-occupied with their elitist concerns they even failed to demonstrate that Union Water Resources Ministry as a nodal Ministry is incapable of undertaking any environment friendly measures because it is beyond its mandate in the same way as they were not successful in ensuring that the Union Ministry of Science and Technology did not get away by saying “it would be difficult to involve panchayats or local communities” at this stage.

It is noteworthy that even the National River Conservation Directorate and the recent Ganga River Basin Authority is under the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests. Continuing its unhealthy legacy of bulldozing rivers, flood plains, forests, biodiversity, natural drainage etc, it is not inconsistent that even ministries such as Union Ministry of Panchayats have not been deemed relevant for engagement, let alone citizens.

Observations from the Comprehensive Mission Document

The following observations from the documents of the National Water Mission illustrate the bureaucratic quality and intent revealed by the reports of hundreds of Commissions, Missions, Task Forces and Committees and their fate. Second volume of the National Water Mission document notes that Climate change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that of UNFCCC, which defines climate change as, “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”. This Report is formed for the Sub-committee on Policy and Institutional Framework as established by the High Level Steering Committee of the National Water Mission headed by Secretary (Water Resources). The Report does not take any position about the causes and certainty of the climate change. However, the possible range of effects on Water Sector is culled out from other expert opinions. On this basis, the possible mitigative measures and the new strategies required for such mitigative measures are outlined and the programmes.

The High Level Steering Committee of the National Water Mission has set-up six Sub-Committees as follows:
• Policy and Institutional Framework
• Surface Water Management
• Ground Water Management
• Domestic and Industrial Water Management
• Efficient Use of Water for various Purposes
• Basin Level Planning and Management

The Policy and Institutional Framework Sub-Committee has to deal with the issues brought out by the other five Sub-Committees and then discuss the policy related issues. This would also include institutional and legal issues, regulatory structures, entailment and pricing, etc. The Surface Water Management Sub-Committee also deals with a large number of issues with considerable overlaps with the coverage of the other four Sub-Committees. The Sub-Committees on Ground Water Management, Domestic and Industrial Water Management, Efficient use of Water for various purposes and Basin level management, deal with more pinpointed issues.

First volume of the National Water Mission document identifies the strategies and methodologies in respect of (a) Assessment of Impact of Climate Change; (b) Changes in Policy, Practices and Institutional Framework; (c) Measures for Mitigation; as well as (d) Measures for Adaptations. Appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanism have also been proposed.

Outlining the objectives of Water Mission in the National Action Plan for Climate Change, it says, “A National Water Mission will be mounted to ensure integrated water resource management helping to conserve water, minimize wastage and ensure more equitable distribution both across and within states. The Mission will take into account the provisions of the National Water Policy and develop a framework to optimize water use by increasing water use efficiency by 20% through regulatory mechanisms with differential entitlements and pricing. It will seek to ensure that a considerable share of the water needs of urban areas are met through recycling of waste water, and ensuring that the water requirements of coastal cities with inadequate alternative sources of water are met through adoption of new and appropriate technologies such as low temperature desalination technologies that allow for the use of ocean water. The National Water Policy would be revisited in consultation with States to ensure basin level management strategies to deal with variability in rainfall and river flows due to climate change. This will include enhanced storage both above and below ground, rainwater harvesting, coupled with equitable and efficient management structures. The Mission will seek to develop new regulatory structures, combined with appropriate entitlements and pricing. It will seek to optimize the efficiency of existing irrigation systems, including rehabilitation of systems that have been run down and also expand irrigation, where feasible, with a special effort to increase storage capacity. Incentive structures will be designed to promote water neutral of water positive technologies, recharging of underground water sources and adoption of large scale irrigation programmes which rely on sprinklers, drip irrigation and ridge and furrow irrigation.”

It also describes the procedure for implementation of the Mission saying: “These National Missions will be institutionalized by respective ministries and will be organized through inter-sectoral groups which include in addition to related Ministries, Ministry of Finance and the Planning Commission, experts from industry, academia and civil society. The institutional structure would vary depending on the task to be addressed by the Mission and will include providing the opportunity to compete on the best management model.

Each Mission will be tasked to evolve specific objectives spanning the remaining years of the 11th Plan and the 12th Plan period 2012-2013 to 2016- 2017. Where the resource requirements of the Mission call for an enhancement of the allocation in the 11th Plan, this will be suitable considered, keeping in mind the overall resources position and the scope for re-prioritization.

Comprehensive Mission documents detailing objectives, strategies, plan of action, timelines and monitoring and evaluation criteria would be developed and submitted to the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate change by December 2008. The council will also periodically review the progress of these Missions.

State Governments would be requested to set up Monitoring Committee under the Chairmanship of the Principal Secretary / Secretary in charge of Water Resources. The State Government would also be requested to create Climate Change Cell at appropriate level. In case of States with considerable potential for water resources development, the cell should be headed by an officer in the grade of Chief Engineer whereas in smaller States, it would be headed by a Superintending Engineer.

Two volumes of the Draft Comprehensive Mission Documents for National Water Mission under National Action Plan on Climate Change are available on the website of Union Ministry Water Resources.


As of date there is ‘no clear indication about the emission reduction targets” which is binding for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This amounts to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC briefed the media on the final day of the Bonn Talks that incorporated the 5th session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 5) and the 7th session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 7) on April 8, 2009 with regard to emission targets for industrialized countries saying, "numbers discussed so far fell well short of the range recommended by the IPCC." The Bonn Talks were the first in a series of meetings scheduled for this year in the run-up to Copenhagen. The next round of negotiations will be held from 1-12 June 2009 in Bonn, when the first drafts of negotiating texts will be ready.

Taking note of the current state of negotiations and the fate of potential victims of adverse climate change, a civil society meeting on the draft comprehensive mission document of National Water Mission (NWM) of India's National Action Plan on Climate Change in the conference room of Church of North India, New Delhi, it emerged that the NWM document has been prepared in an undemocratic, unethical and immoral manner.

The meeting which was organized by the Indian Network on Ethics in Climate Change (INECC) on April 18, 2009 to comprehend the reasons for the autocratic and non-transparent drafting of the document without any democratic engagement with the citizen groups concluded that a historic opportunity for policy reversal through a participatory process for a people friendly and environment friendly development path has been missed in the draft document dated December 2008. Given the fact that the document is still at a draft stage, it would be sane to make a fresh start instead of doing merely a paper work that is apparently required as per Bali Action Plan for nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMA) and other measures.

It is clear from the perusal of the above documents, it “lacks proper perspective, urgency and sincerity” because only lip-service has been paid to conservation of wetlands, ground water recharge, irrigation efficiency along with big dams, interlinking of rivers. Efforts are underway to seek its complete rewriting because its approach is fundamentally flawed. Overall, it ends promoting business as usual.
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