Mission LiFE and Onboarding the Masses
My Question this Week
Every government mission and scheme need not be specified with a clearly laid out set of objectives, and outcomes with a commensurate allocation of government funds. Swachh Bharat is something like that but Mission LiFE is even more so. The latest government initiative, perhaps directly flowing from the PM's desk, aims to bring together ideas from within society, retain a strong local focus, and help ‘individuals, households and communities to drive climate-friendly behaviors’. Yes, the idea behind this mission is to get ideas from the public. Crowdsourcing ideas in my experience rarely yield much in terms of ideas themselves, but it does help in getting a large cross-section of people on board. And god knows, it seems we still need to do a lot of work to bring even the middle class on board the environmental cause, leave alone the masses. If all that knowledge, models, proofs, and real-life experience, cannot convince us enough to change our behavior, then either there is a built-in destruction gene in our DNA that has spontaneously become active, or we need to somehow democratize the process of change itself. Is that what the PM is trying?
My Views this Week
India is about to approve two genetically modified crops for commercial use, of these one (HTBT cotton) is already in use illegally and the approval will merely sanctify what is already occurring. GM makes many extremely uncomfortable, because, when many players are involved over a long enough period of time, the probability of something somewhere going wrong adds up. But for now, for both nutritional and purported environmental reasons, the world will yield more and more to the dream of genetically modified crops. This is only the beginning of the early stages of humanity changing the DNA of life itself.
Nigeria wants India to support its case to lift the ban on ivory trade. India generally opposes such a move along with a host of other countries. From what I can deduce, India may have informally agreed to consider or even support Nigeria’s case, in return for its Cheetahs. India should support Nigeria’s case, irrespective of what it may or may not have agreed to. The illegal ivory trade is most responsible for poaching; bring it into the legal domain along with origin certification and we will help Nigeria earn some wealth from its natural capital, enable improved monitoring of such assets, and also reduce the incentive for illegal poaching.
Pakistan’s recent floods are estimated to have destroyed about 10 million hectares of agricultural land, displaced about 8 million people, and caused damage somewhere between USD 10 to 30 billion. And Pakistan barely managed a total aid of about USD 51 million. How the world dealt with Pakistan has been an embarrassing multilateral failure and shows what could happen to other developing countries as climate disasters increase in spread, intensity, and frequency. South Asia would do well to develop a focused mechanism to at least deal with emergency needs due to such extreme events.
‘President Xi Jinping on Sunday said China will give priority to environmental protection and promoting green lifestyles, and that the conservation of nature was an essential part of building a modern socialist country.’ I don’t doubt his larger intention, it’s the urgency that is questionable. No doubt China’s efforts at reducing its environmental footprint have had high positive spillovers across the globe. The most important perhaps is the large fall in solar panel prices which has helped India become among the lowest-cost renewable energy producer globally. But President Xi is unlikely to compromise on short-term economic growth, and that is where his statement can be questioned.
It's not clear how globally popular the ‘World Green City Award’ is, but it is nevertheless heartening to note that at least by some criteria an Indian city outscored major global cities. It is high time that other Indian cities barring Indore achieve some distinction on any environment-related matter. I have in the past participated in State of the State awards given to CMs, and have seen how that inspired many states to focus on measurable key socio-economic outcomes. Hyderabad’s success will no doubt inspire other cities as well.