On Saturday, Environment activist Sunita Narain questioned the government’s smart city project, saying it was being implemented in areas which are already developed and argued that people are becoming increasingly intolerant due to enormous differences created between places.
She was speaking at a panel discussion which included Niti Ayog Member Bibek Debroy, India Today Editorial Director Raj Chengappa and NDTV’s Ravish Kumar as panelists.
Taking up the case of Lutyens Delhi, which will be developed as one of the smart cities by the government, she said “I called it ‘Lutayan’ (Lutneys) Delhi. This is India’s biggest gated community. Smart city was a good idea. But you (government) decided to invest in it’s own area which is already very clean…”
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“It is creating a huge difference between this (developed area) and the rest of the world. This idea is creating a global view that we should only ensure cleanliness of our backyard,” she added.
Explaining intolerance, Narain continued saying that it was because of the enormous differences being created between places which are green and good and the rest of the world, that we were becoming more and more intolerant. She said that it has become difficult to put forth an inconvenient message as people today lived in a “bubble wrap” where they only listened to what they wanted.
“Today we are more and more ‘bubble wrapped’ in the views that we would like to listen and that is all we want to listen. The world conversation has changed in such a manner that it is almost difficult to get an inconvenient message out,” she said.
The intolerance was also evident during the recent Paris Climate Change meet where countries, including India, who tried to voice inconvenient messages were demeaned, she claimed.
“At Paris any narrative which was inconvenient was not there at all. Countries who were seen to be raising any words of convenience were treated as ignored,” she said.
Discussing on government achievements in terms of environmental protection, Narain slammed Modi government for not doing anything about the air quality monitoring stations.
“Delhi has 17 stations to monitor air quality. Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad does not have even a single monitoring station. For two years this government has been talking about improving monitoring but not a single new station has come up. And if we build, we do not have people to run it. We do not have the technical capacity,” she said.
Narain’s new quasi-autobiographical collection of writings is a case for environmentalism of the poor and asserts it to be at the core of the sustainable development agenda.
Commenting on the book, Chengappa said it is a work of genius as Narain has dealt with A to Z of environmental issues like asking troubling questions, challenging the establishment and demanding a new sustainable order.
“Her ability to take the micro and then give it macro perspective is what makes us all sit up and think. She simplifies the most complex issues, makes them understandable and human across the sections of the country. It is the work of a genius,” he said.
Debroy also said that while most of the people who deal with environment issue are difficult to have conversation with, Narain was ‘perfectly amenable’.
“Whoever are in environmental movement, it is difficult to have conversation with them. Sunita is remarkable different. I have always found Sunita perfectly amenable to reason even when you may have views that are different from hers,” he said.