Best efforts would be made to address all environmental issues, including “contentious” ones, in a “meticulous and scientific” manner, Union Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday after taking charge as environment minister following the death of Anil Madhav Dave last week. Noting that air and water pollution were a “matter of concern” for the whole country in general and Delhi and NCR in particular, he said they would be addressed on “on priority”.
Dave, 60, passed away on May 18 after suffering a cardiac arrest. The government subsequently handed over additional charge of the ministry to Harsh Vardhan, who also handles the science and technology portfolio.
“Though I have taken over the charge of the environment ministry today, it is a sad moment for me because we have recently lost one of our dear friends, who was a great human being, lover of environment and dedicated soul who spent even the last moments of his life working for this ministry in spite of his severe illness.
“I pay my heartfelt tributes to the memory of my dear friend Anil Madhav Dave,” Harsh Vardhan, who also looks after the earth sciences ministry, said.
He said his ministry would take forward the “great work” initiated by his predecessor with the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We will ensure that we put our heart and soul into ensuring that all issues related to environment protection, preservation, strengthening, improvement, related to wildlife, rivers, most contentious issues, global warming and climate change… we (will) do our best,” the minister said.
Harsh Vardhan interacted with senior officials of the ministry, including the environment secretary. He also took a tour of the “environment friendly” ministry building, inaugurated a biodiversity exhibition and interacted with school students.
Besides, the minister planted a sapling on the premises of the ministry in Dave’s memory. Plant trees if you want to cherish my memories, Dave had said in his will while emphasising that he did not want any statue, memorial or award instituted in his name.
Harsh Vardhan, however, did not talk about the contentious issue of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard which was recently approved for commercial use by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), a body of the ministry that evaluates GM crops.
Dave was to take the final call on the approval of GM mustard. “Being the minister of science and technology and earth sciences, I will make sure that all the researchers that have taken place in science and its outcomes, can help us strengthening the issues of this ministry, that they are all aptly applied in this ministry,” he said.
He said the environment ministry would also take the help of Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar, a former environment minister, to ensure that environment protection becomes a mass movement.
He asserted that his ministry would would try to involve every student and make him or her a messenger of positive health and environmental messages.
“We will put our heart and soul into ensuring that all the international issues and concerns, are also very meticulously and scientifically addressed.
“I would like to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reposing his faith in me and giving me the charge of environment ministry,” he said.
Later, an official statement issued by the ministry said Harsh Vardhan, during his interaction with officials, focussed on policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity protection, pollution prevention, promoting circular economy for waste management through “Reduce, Recover, reuse and Recycle” concept among others.
Noting that commitments made by India in the Paris agreement was another “important challenge”, the environment minister asked all officers to continue to strive hard to overcome the challenge. He also stressed the need for sharing the “good work” with the people.
The minister underscored the importance of the government’s mission to integrate environmental concerns and development policies and programmes and balance the two for India’s sustained growth and progress.
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