New Delhi, May 29: One of earliest calls Jairam Ramesh made today after taking over as new minister of state for environment and forests was to defence minister A.K. Antony to seek the help of ex-servicemen to rebuild Indias forests.
On the first day of his new job, Ramesh, 55, an engineer-turned-economist, and a former minister of state for commerce and power, was thinking of ways to revive a 27-year- old idea that had transformed barren stretches of hills between Dehra Dun and Mussoorie green with forests.
It was in 1982.... Ex-servicemen had helped in afforestation of land between Dehra Dun and Mussoorie. Wed like a similar effort again, perhaps through a co-operative of ex-servicemen who could help in eco-restoration tasks, Ramesh said. Such an effort could be launched in Assam, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, he said.
After quick meetings with bureaucrats and scientists, Ramesh, who was a key strategist in the Congresss election war room, today signalled he was ready for the multiple tasks ahead from forests to river clean-up projects to climate change.
Among his first big challenges would be to prepare to steer India through tough international climate change talks. The UN climate change conference scheduled to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December this year, is aimed at pencilling a global climate agreement to reduce the emissions of earth-warming greenhouse gases for the period beyond 2012.
India cannot take on binding emission reduction targets, Ramesh said. India is prepared to give evidence of its efforts to improve efficiency in energy use, but we cannot be expected to take on binding targets, he said.
India has resisted pressure from industrialised countries to accept mandatory emission reduction targets but pledged that its per capita emissions would never exceed the per capita emissions of the developed countries.
Ramesh indicated that he would invite and hear out concerns and suggestions from environmental groups and activists. It is important to listen to them and get them into decision-making, he said.
The process for environment impact assessment and clearances needs to have greater transparency and speed, he said.
The process has got vitiated. We dont want to short- circuit any procedure but there has to be more transparency.