“India is a rapidly developing economy, and it is continuously strengthening its ecology as well”
“Our forest cover has increased and wetlands are also expanding rapidly”
“I urge all environment ministers to promote a circular economy as much as possible in the states”
“I think that the role of the Environment Ministry is more as a promoter of the environment rather than as a regulator”
“Forest fire fighting mechanism in every state should be technology driven and robust”
“There should be healthy competition as well as collaboration among the states to promote environment measures”
“To hinder development in India, groups of urban naxals have been showing their strength by taking crores of rupees from different global organizations and foundations”
“When the vision of the environment ministries changes, I am sure, nature will also be benefitted”
“The universities and laboratories of our states should give top priority to innovations related to environmental protection, following the mantra of Jai Anusandhan”
“The faster the environment clearance is available, the faster the development will also take place”
“Where environment clearance used to take more than 600 days 8 years ago, it takes 75 days today”
“The PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan is also a great tool for protecting the environment”
“Both the central and the state government together have to move towards a green industrial economy”

The popular Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Bhupendrabhai Patel, my colleagues in the Union Cabinet, Shri Bhupendra Yadav ji and Shri Ashwini Choubey ji, all the ministers from the states, all the officers of the central and state governments, other dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen!

All of you are welcome to this national conference and especially in Ekta Nagar. I consider this national conference in Ekta Nagar important in itself. If we talk about forests, our tribal brothers and sisters, wild life, water conservation, tourism, nature and environment and development, then Ekta Nagar sends out a message and creates the belief that today it has become a pilgrimage center in the field of forest and environment due to the holistic development that has taken place here. All the ministers and officers representing this field are here. During your stay here, I would like you to observe the nuances with which development work has been carried out here with utmost care towards the environment, our tribal society and wildlife. You will see and learn a lot in your bid to move ahead on the path of development in the future while protecting the forests and environment simultaneously.


We are meeting at a time when India is setting new goals for the next 25 years of ‘Amrit Kaal’. I believe your efforts will help in protecting the environment and India's development will also continue at the same speed.


Today's new India is moving ahead with new thinking and approach. Today India is a rapidly developing economy and is also continuously strengthening its ecology. Our forest cover has increased and wetlands are also expanding rapidly. We have shown the world that any country can hardly match our speed and scale in the field of renewable energy. India is leading the world today while dealing with major challenges, be it the International Solar Alliance, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, or LiFE movement.

Today the world is joining hands with India because of our track record of fulfilling our commitments. The number of lions, tigers, elephants, one-horned rhinos and leopards has increased over the years. As Bhupendrabhai mentioned, there is a new enthusiasm due to the homecoming of cheetahs in Madhya Pradesh a few days ago. The way the country rejoiced in welcoming the cheetahs reflects the kindness towards the living beings and love for nature which flows in the veins of every Indian. In every part of India, it seemed as if a beloved guest had come to their own house. This is the strength of our country. Let us continue this effort to balance with nature and keep encouraging the future generations. With this resolution in mind, India has set a target of net zero by 2070, i.e., we have about five decades from now. Now the focus of the country is on green growth and when we talk about green growth, then there are many opportunities for green jobs as well. The role of the environment ministry of every state is paramount in achieving all these goals.


The responsibilities of the Ministry of Environment, whether in any state or at the Centre, are vast. It should not be viewed in a limited scope. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, there has been a perception in our system that the role of the Ministry of Environment is more as a regulator. But I think that more than just the regulator, the role of the environment ministry is to promote the environment. The role of your ministry is huge in every effort that protects the environment. Now, for example, the issue of the circular economy! The circular economy has been a part of our tradition. The people of India need not be taught about the circular economy. We have never been the exploiters of Nature; we have always been the nurturers of Nature.

When we were young, we were told that when Mahatma Gandhi lived in the Sabarmati Ashram at the beginning of the last century he would interrupt anybody found wasting water of the Sabarmati River despite it being overflowing. There used to be so much water in the river, but he would not let the water go to waste. Many of you would be aware that there are so many households where so many things from clothes to newspapers are reused and recycled till the end. This is the ethos of our families. And this is not thrift. This is an awareness and sensitivity towards Nature. It is not because of miserliness that people use the same thing ten times. I would urge all the environment ministers who are here to promote a circular economy in their states as much as possible. If school children are told to find out something related to circular economy in their homes, they will certainly find it. There will be consciousness regarding circular economy and this will also give strength to our campaign of solid waste management and freedom from single use plastic. We should encourage Panchayats, local bodies, self-help groups and MSMEs in this regard. They should be given the right direction and guidelines.


The Government of India has also implemented the Vehicle Scrapping Policy last year to give impetus to the circular economy. Did the states formulate any roadmap to take advantage of this Vehicle Scrapping Policy by inviting private investment or earmarking land which could be used to implement the scrapping of vehicles? I also told the Indian government to fast-track the scrapping policy by getting all the vehicles of the Indian government which are old and unfit for scrapping so that the industry can be kick-started. The states’ environment ministry should also sensitize their respective states to launch the scrapping policy by bringing all the old and outdated vehicles for scrap. The scrapping of old vehicles will lead to newer vehicles which will save fuel. It can be a great help. But it will be of no use if the policy formulated by the Indian government lies dormant. All the environment ministries of the country need to work on the biofuel policy quickly. We are moving in the biofuel sector rapidly. But if the states also take up this program to use biofuel blending in vehicles then there will be an environment of competition in the country. The environment ministries will have to own this policy and implement it firmly. Nowadays, the country is making new records in ethanol blending. If the states also join hands with the Centre, then we can grow rapidly. I would also suggest that there should be a competition among states for ethanol production and ethanol blending. The states should be certified once a year according to their performance. It will greatly help our farmers. The waste of the farm will also start yielding income. We have to promote this healthy competition. This healthy competition should continue among cities and states. This will empower the public participation in our resolve to protect the environment and what seems to be a hindrance to us today will become a great medium for us to cross new boundaries. As we have seen, LED bulbs save electricity, carbon emissions and money. Our environment, power and urban ministries in the states should continuously monitor whether LED bulbs are installed on every street light or in every government office or not. You and your department can lead this entire movement regarding LED bulbs which save money and protect the environment also.

Similarly, we have to save our resources also. Take for example the issue of water. Everyone agrees that saving water is very important. We have given the call to develop 75 Amrit Sarovar (ponds) in every district during the ‘Amrit Mahotsav’ of Independence. Is the Ministry of Environment and Forests leading it? Is it giving emphasis to water conservation? Similarly, are the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture laying emphasis on drip irrigation? The Ministry of Environment is such a ministry that it can give direction, speed, inspire and draw results from every other ministry. Now-a-days, we see that there is a huge struggle for water in the states which used to have abundant water. There is a shortage of water and we have to go 1000-1200 feet down under the earth to find water.


This challenge is not only limited to the departments related to water, but the environment ministry should also consider it as a big challenge. As I said earlier, there is a campaign for Amrit Sarovar underway in every district of the country. The issue of Amrit Sarovar is linked to water as well as environment security. Of late, you must have noticed that our farmers are turning to chemical-free agriculture, natural farming. Though it appears to be the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, it will get a tremendous boost if the environment ministry also joins hands. Natural farming also works to protect the environment. To protect our mother earth is also an important task. Therefore, I emphasize that it is very necessary for the Ministry of Environment to work with a participating and integrated approach in the changing times. When the vision of the environment ministries will change, the goals will be fixed and the paths will be determined, I am sure friends, Nature will also benefit equally.


Another important aspect of environment protection is public awareness, public participation and public support. But this too is not just the job of the Information Department or the Education Department. As you all know very well that our new National Education Policy is very useful for you as well as for your department. There is a theme on Experienced Based Learning and great emphasis has been laid on it. Did the Ministry of Environment take up the issue of the Experienced Based Learning with the Department of Education that if the school children had to be taught about trees and plants, they should be taken to gardens? The school children should be introduced to the trees and plants outside their villages. It should be the joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment. Those children will develop a natural awareness of the environment and this will bring more awareness to the children to protect the environment. They can sow such seeds in the hearts and minds of the children that they can become great sentinels of environment protection in the future.

Similarly, the children on our seashores or on river banks should be taught the importance of water and the ecosystem of the sea and the river. What is the importance of fish and how are they helping to protect the environment? Though it is the job of the education department, but if the environment department also joins hands then a whole new generation will be ready. We have to make our children and the future generations aware as well as sensitize them to the environment. The environment ministries of the states should start campaigns in this regard. Planning has to be made. Now for example, if there is a fruit tree in a school then children can write on it. Children can also be asked to write an essay about the properties of a medicinal plant, a competition can be organized among children. The universities and laboratories of our states will also have to give top priority to innovations related to environmental protection following the mantra of Jai Anusandhan. We should also increase the use of technology in protecting the environment. As regards to forests, it is very important to continuously study their condition. We can continuously monitor our forests through space technology. If there is any change, corrections can be made.


Another important topic related to the environment is forest fire. Forest fires are increasing. In the event of forest fires in a country like India, where do we have the resources to extinguish it with modern technology? You must have seen on TV the forest fires in several developed countries of the world, including the Western America, Canada, Australia, etc. recently. There was huge destruction, wild animals were rendered helpless and the public life was also affected. Ashes due to forest fires made it difficult for people to breathe for several miles away. India's share in global emission is very less due to wildfires, it is negligible, but still we have to be careful. There should be a plan in place from now on. It is very important to have a strong forest fire fighting mechanism in every state and it should be technology driven. We all know the reason behind the fire in forests. There is a pile up of dry leaves in the forests and a small mistake can engulf the entire forest in the fire. The waste and leaves in forests are also used in the circular economy. Now-a-days, manure and coal are also made from them. Small machines can be installed and coal can be made from these wastes which can be used in factories. In other words, our forests can be saved along with our energy. What I mean to say is that there should be awareness regarding forest fires. We should treat the forest wealth and people who live in forests in a way so that we can save the forests from fire. Our forest guards also need a lot of training. There is a need to add new aspects of Human Resource Development. The old-fashioned guards are not going to make a difference now.


I also want to discuss another important point with all of you. You know very well that the development of the country and efforts to improve the standard of living of the countrymen cannot be successful without modern infrastructure. But we have also seen how the construction of modern infrastructure in the country was delayed in the past on the issue of environment clearance. Ekta Nagar, the place where you are sitting, is an eye-opener for us. How the Urban Naxals, the opponents to development, had kept this huge project, Sardar Sarovar Dam, on hold? You will be surprised to know this, friends. Could you ever imagine such a huge reservoir in the form of Sardar Sarovar Dam in Ekta Nagar, where you are sitting? Its foundation stone was laid soon after the country got independence. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played an important role in it. Pandit Nehru had laid the foundation stone but all the Urban Naxals and other people from the world joined the issue and launched a campaign that it was anti-environment. As a result, the project was stopped several times. The work, which was started by Nehru ji, could be completed only after I formed the government (in Gujarat). Tell me, how much the country’s money was wasted? And today the same Ekta Nagar has become a pilgrimage center of ​​the environment. A campaign of lies was run and these Urban Naxals are not silent even today. Even today, they are playing their games. Their lies were exposed, but still they are not ready to accept it. They get political support from some people.


Many global institutions and foundations create a storm over such issues and these Urban Naxals create problems for us by siding with them. (We should expose such conspiracies) without compromising on the environment, but putting our views firmly in a balanced way simultaneously. Conspiracies by such people affect even the World Bank and the judiciary. So much hype is created that projects get stuck often. I want that we should move forward by adopting a holistic approach on such issues.


It should be our endeavor that no obstacle should be created in the way of Ease of Living and Ease of Doing Business by raking up the issue of the environment unnecessarily. I will give you an example of how problems are created. There is always a water crisis in Gujarat. Out of 10 years, there is famine in seven years. So, we launched a huge campaign for check dams. We wanted to have water in the forests as well. Therefore, we planned a layer of small ponds measuring 10 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep on the slope of water in the forests. You will be surprised that the forest ministry refused the proposal. I told them that your forests will be saved only if there is water. Ultimately, I told them that I would give money to the forest department. You build check dams, save water and preserve forests. It is only after that I was able to do that work with great difficulty. In other words, how will it work if we don’t ensure water in the forests in the name of the environment?


We have to remember that the faster the environment clearance is available, the faster the development will take place. And this can happen without compromise. I am told that more than 6,000 issues of environmental clearance are pending in your ministries across the states. Similarly, the applications for about 6,500 projects are lying on your tables for forest clearance. Friends, the reason is something else if such clearances are given after three months in today’s modern era. We should decide parameters in a fair manner and should speed up in giving clearance while protecting the environment. We should not create hindrance. You can imagine that people do not benefit from the projects due to pendency. Expenses also increase and so do problems. We should try to minimize the pendency and there should be pendency only in genuine cases.

We also need to change the work environment in order to ensure faster clearances. I have often seen that the state governments or departments of the government of India write letters to me if any project is not getting forest clearance. Some state governments blame the Indian government for the delay. I bring such projects for consideration during the PRAGATI meetings. And I am surprised that clearances are secured immediately at the state and the central level the moment a particular project is taken up during the PRAGATI review meeting. What it means is that it is not so that the clearance is withheld on the issue of the environment every time.

There are some other issues, whether it is slackness or work culture due to which there is such a mess. Therefore, I request you that if we all work together, at the central or state or local self-government or at the department level, then there will be no such obstacles. You see, now-a-days technology is being used. You all must have seen the Parivesh Portal. Parivesh Portal has become a single-window medium for all types of clearances related to environment. It is transparent and less time consuming for approvals. Until eight years ago, where environment clearance used to take more than 600 days, remember friends, earlier it used to take more than 600 days for clearance. Today, with the help of technology, the environment clearance is available within 75 days in a scientific way. We also take care of the rules and give priority to the development of the people of those areas while issuing environmental clearances. That is, it is a win-win situation for both the economy and ecology.

Let me give you another example. Just a few weeks ago, the Central Government dedicated the Pragati Maidan Tunnel in Delhi to the nation. Due to this tunnel, the problems of the people of Delhi getting stuck in the jam have reduced. The Pragati Maidan Tunnel will also help in saving more than 55 lakh liters of fuel every year. Now it is also protecting the environment as it will reduce carbon emissions by about 13,000 tonnes every year. Experts say that we need more than six lakh trees to reduce this much carbon emissions. That is, that work of development also helped the environment. Be it flyovers, roads, expressways or railway projects, their construction helps in reducing carbon emissions equally. We should not ignore this angle while issuing clearances.


Since the implementation of the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan, the coordination in infrastructure projects has improved a lot. The states are also very happy about it and they are taking advantage of its benefits. Due to this, projects have also picked up speed. The PM GatiShakti National Master Plan is also helping unprecedentedly in protecting the environment. In the wake of problems caused due to climate change, we also have to ensure that any infrastructure project in a state withstands such problems. We have to create infrastructure which is disaster resilient. We have to make good use of every emerging sector of the economy, while facing the challenges related to climate. Both the central and the state governments together have to move towards a green industrial economy.


I am sure you will further strengthen India's efforts to protect the environment in these two days. The Ministry of Environment is not only a regulatory institution but also a great medium for economic empowerment of the people and creating new means of employment. You will find a lot to see and learn in Ekta Nagar. Sardar Sarovar Dam has created a positive impact in the lives of crores of people of the four states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in the form of electricity. Water has reached the deserts of Rajasthan and Kutch and electricity is being generated there. Madhya Pradesh is getting electricity. Such a huge statue of Sardar Saheb inspires us to stick to the pledge of unity. How ecology and economy can develop together, how environment can be strengthened and new employment opportunities can be created simultaneously, how biodiversity can become such a great medium to increase eco-tourism, how our forest wealth can increase the wealth of our tribal brothers and sisters, you can find the answers to all these questions in Kevadia, Ekta Nagar. With the belief that the Ekta Nagar Declaration will propose better solutions for the ‘Amrit Kaal’ of independence, best wishes to all of you.


And friends, I congratulate the hon’ble minister and all the officers of the Ministry of Environment of the Government of India for organizing this program. The lecturers and discussions that will be held during the conference have their own importance. But the most important thing is that during your two day stay here, you will get to know each other’s experiences. Every state must have implemented some good experiments and taken some good initiatives. During your interaction with your colleagues from other states, you will get new ideas and will also be able to share your experiences with them. In fact, these two days will be very inspirational for you. You yourself will be an inspiration to each other. Your colleagues will be your inspiration. With the expectation that you will prepare a well-defined roadmap suggesting better options and giving a right direction for the development of the country, for the protection of environment and for making the future generations sensitive towards the environment in this two-day brainstorming session, I wish you all the very best. Thanks a lot!


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