What happened in the Assembly on Wednesday can be seen as an indication that the threat of global warming is no more a distant subject apt for discussion only among scientists and global leaders. For the first time in the history, climate change was raised as an adjournment motion in the Kerala Assembly on Wednesday. Considering the urgency of the issue, Speaker M B Rajesh even said the Assembly would organise a special session on climate change.
It was Congress MLA P C Vishnunath who moved the motion seeking leave to suspend all proceedings to discuss the issue. He said the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confirmed fears that Kerala was among the regions most vulnerable to climate change. His contention was that despite repeated disasters since the Ockhi struck in 2017, Kerala government had done nothing to mitigate the consequences in future.
While Vishnunath posed a series of questions about government lapses, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who responded to the motion, avoided most of the posers and stuck to elaborating his government's intent on the issue (carbon neutral Kerala, Room for River, E-mobility project and the expert committees and working groups set up for these purposes).
Here are some of the posers hurled by Vishnunath. One, why is the government taking so long to submit before the Centre the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC), the draft of which was ready by 2018. Two, why has the government not appointed a single scientist in the Institute of Climate Studies even though 12 posts had already been sanctioned. Three, what steps have been taken on the basis of the report submitted by Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Education in 2019.
"If the recommendations of this report were implemented, we could have at least prevented loss of lives in Kokkayar, " Vishnunath said. One of the recommendations of the KSCSTE report was the resettlement of people living at the base of landslide-prone hills.
Four, can the government list at least one creative step taken by the State Disaster Management Authority to prevent and mitigate disasters in future.
The Chief Minister vaguely responded to the first poser, the one regarding SAPCC. He said the delay was on account of the new guidelines drawn up as part of the Paris Agreement in 2015. He said the working group discussions were going on.
Opposition Leader V D Satheesan questioned the direction of the Chief Minister's ambitious Rebuild Kerala Initiative. "Risk mitigation measures like flood mapping and installation of warning systems should have been it's major component but no such activities have taken place," Satheesan said.
The Opposition Leader also criticised the government for easing restrictions on mining. "Even after 2018, this government had issued over 200 licences for quarrying. Why are you doing this without even conducting an audit," Satheesan said.
Both Vishnunath and Satheesan used the occasion to once again highlight the danger of the semi high speed Silver Line project. Vishnunath said the K-Rail would cause ecological devastation. Satheesan said that the government was going ahead with the project without understanding its social impact and economic viability.
The Chief Minister said his government would proceed with the project. "You had spoken about a high speed rail project while in power but you could not do anything about it. Now, you don't want us to take up a project that will take Kerala forward," Vijayan said.