Ahead of the October 31 UN climate conference, known as COP26, in Scotland, India Today TV Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to Maharashtra environment minister Aaditya Thackeray. Excerpts:
Q: When we say we're facing a climate crisis, are we being alarmist?
We're in the midst of a climate emergency. The time to act is now, if not yesterday. Look at events in US, UK, Australia and Germany. In India, we saw what happened in Uttarakhand, Kerala or even in Maharashtra. These are not anomalies. These are certain patterns of climate change. Mumbai has faced huge amounts of rainfall in the last three years. It was a safe harbour for boats but we faced three cyclones. This never happened in a hundred years.
Q: Mumbai is at the heart of India's climate challenge but we continue to see unabated construction in some of the eco-sensitive areas
The rest of India also faces an equal danger. We need to step beyond panic environmentalism to environmentalism backed by climate science. We need sustainable development to battle climate change.
Q: How will you check illegal construction, coastal zone violations?
We need to be strict on these violations, anyone going into the mangroves. The coastal road is going to be carbon-neutral. We will have 96 hectares of green open space that won't be touched. There won't be any construction there. It will be a carbon sink for the city. There will be cycling tracks and rainwater harvesting. We're also solarising the coastal road. Thankfully, the chief minister is a wildlife enthusiast and believes in conservation. In the last two years, 9,800 hectares of mangroves have been protected. Going ahead, we'll be strict with our environmental norms.
Q: If you were to be at COP26, what would be your two solutions to this climate emergency?
In India, we need to de-carbonise rapidly in transport, largely public transport, and energy. And the second is electric mobility. We're looking at zero carbon emissions in Maharashtra very soon. Our 43 cities where we're doing it are the size of France.