NEW DELHI: The Congress Tuesday said it recognised air pollution as a national public health emergency and promised an action agenda that will place India at the forefront of the battle against global warming.
The party said that it will advance India's interests in international negotiations on climate change and environment.
"The Congress promises an action agenda that will place India at the forefront of the battle against global warming and for the protection of the environment. At the same time, the Congress will defend and advance India's interests in international negotiations on climate change and the environment," it said in its 55-page manifesto.
"The Congress recognises that air pollution is a national public health emergency. We will significantly strengthen the National Clean Air Programme in order to urgently tackle the problem of pollution," it said.
The party said that all major sources of emission will be targetted, mitigated and reduced to acceptable levels and added that sectoral emission standards will be set.
The manifesto also highlighted its commitment towards protecting coastal zones of the country for which it will reverse the recently "diluted" regulations under which no development zone (NDZ) has been restricted to 50 metres from the high tide line as against 200 metres in the 2011 notification.
"The Congress promises to protect the coastal zones of the country. Recent steps that diluted the coastal zone regulations will be reversed. The coast will be preserved without affecting the livelihood opportunities of fishing communities," it said.
The party manifesto said the Congress was the first Indian political party to acknowledge the consequences of climate change on June 14, 1972 under former prime minister Indira Gandhi in Stockholm and nothing has been done by the BJP during its rule to control the deteriorating environment.
"It is a bitter truth that India's environment has deteriorated. The 2018 Global Environmental Performance Index placed India at rank 177 out of 180 countries. BJP government has done virtually nothing in the last 5 years to arrest this decline," it claimed.
The Congress promised to constitute, by law, an independent, empowered and transparent Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to establish, monitor and enforce environmental standards and regulations.
"The EPA will replace all other bodies that currently exercise jurisdiction and powers," it said.
The party said it will formulate a comprehensive land and water use policy and plan that will include measures for the conservation of ecosystems, biodiversity and wildlife, without affecting the legitimate rights of local communities.
"We will work closely with the state governments concerned to preserve the rich biodiversity of the Himalayan range and the Western Ghats. However, the livelihood opportunities of the people living in these mountains will be protected," it said.
The manifesto said that Congress will join hands with state governments to stop the discharge of effluents (waste) into rivers and clean all the rivers in the country.
It also promised to impose a complete ban on the import of all types of waste, allow the import of sand for construction and stop the illegal mining of sand in river banks.
"We will implement a solid waste management plan in every habitation, village, town and city employing modern technology and machinery. Those engaged in waste management and disposal will be assured appropriate equipment, dignity and safe working conditions," the party said.
It also pledged to amend laws governing forests, re-define the role of the forest departments and make local communities the custodians of forests and shareholders of forest resources.
"We will work with state governments to increase the forest cover from the current level of 21 per cent to 25 per cent by the year 2025," it said.
In its agendas for 2019 elections, the party promised to preserve wildlife habitats, manage and minimise human-wildlife conflict and award compensation for the loss of human lives.
"We will promote the welfare of animals and severely penalise cruelty to animals," it said.
The Congress also promised to provide clean cooking fuels at affordable prices to all the households of the country.
"We will monitor the price of LPG cylinders and mitigate through subsidies the burden of price increases on the homemaker," it said.
It also said that if it comes to power, the party will present the national accounts in a form that will account for the costs of environmental degradation and damage.
"The annual budget will adopt the core principles of green budgeting," it said.
Lastly, the Congress said it will be committed to make India a green manufacturing hub by reducing tariffs and lifting trade barriers for clean technology and provide incentives for the adoption of such technologies.