There is significant scientific evidence available today which shows beyond doubt that the soil, water and air of Punjab have been grossly polluted with highly poisonous/ toxic substances. The state is sitting on a volcano of environmental health crisis, which is affecting not only human beings but all other living species.
Use of highly poisonous agro-chemicals (pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers); discharge of untreated or partially treated industrial waste into natural water bodies and coal based power plants are the main sources of pollution. This is the reason why it’s high time our political parties clearly spell out their environmental priorities. The time has come when ecology and environmental action should be the rallying point for all pro-people and pro-nature forces in Punjab.
More than 50 civil society organisations, religious groups and farmer unions are already pushing for the cause under a social alliance, Vatavaran Ate Samaj Bachao Morcha (VSBM). The main motive is to bring environmental health and ecological crisis to the center stage of current election debate.
We are confronting the entire political class with some hard questions related to destruction of ecology, contamination of food chain and high prevalence of environmental toxins in Punjab. VSBM has adopted a People’s Green Agenda seeking proclamation of ‘Environment Emergency’ in Punjab and a widespread epidemiological mapping to ascertain the impact of chronic toxicity in the state.
The Morcha is also organising public dialogues at all district headquarters of Punjab to create awareness among the electorates. Voters must demand answers from the candidates and parties who come to seek their mandate this time.
Environmental governance capability of each political party is the most essential prerequisite for good and holistic governance. The experience of last two decades shows that development paradigm clearly lacks ecological concerns. Contrary to popular belief, there are successful environment friendly policies which can be adopted by Punjab for sustainable development.
The agriculture sector needs a fresh vision to ensure financial as well as ecological viability. People of Punjab have long been cheated by subsequent governments which have been callous and non-committal on their own promises related to environment protection.
We call upon the Election Commission to declare election manifesto as a legal document. If a party coming to power fails to implement at least 75 per cent of its election promises, it should be de-recognised and its office bearers and leaders debarred from contesting elections.
We implore the people of Punjab to stress upon issues of environment and health when the candidates come to their doors seeking support. This is the only way we can expect Punjab to flourish again. Our pride and heritage is at stake. If we don’t act now, there is little hope for better future.
The Morcha is a democratic federation of several groups belonging to diverse socio-political ideologies and working on different issues. However, they all have joined forces on the core issue of environmental and health security besides ecological sustainability of agriculture.
VSBM represents voice of concerned social forces which include Kheti Virasat Mission, Nature Human Centric People’s Movement, Internationalist Democratic Party, United Communist Party of India, Phagwara Environment Association, Association for Democratic Rights, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, Environmental Health Action Group, Eco Sikh and Election Watch Punjab. It is supported by various factions of Bhartiya Kisan Union and other farmer’s organisations.
We have doctors, farmers, activists, writers, artists, lawyers and scientists on our board. Eminent individuals like Gyani Kewal Singh , Dr Bibi Inderjit Kaur , Sant Balbir Singh Seenchewal, Prof Jagmohan Singh and former minister Jagdev Singh Jassowal.