Environmental studies is an important subject that should be taught across all schools in India. But the situation on ground is really grim when it comes to teaching this subject and hiring those who have the expertise in it. Government schools do not have the required infrastructure for environment studies and teachers with backgrounds in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and geography are found teaching environmental studies. Even vacancies for environmental studies teachers in primary and high schools don’t ask for environmental studies knowledge in the selection criteria.
Moreover, expert environmental science professionals are often not appointed as faculty members in research universities or members of pollution control boards, environmental impact assessment committees, etc. In fact, the prestigious Indian Forest Service doesn’t include environmental sciences in the legitimate list of optional subjects for the exam.
When Guwahati-based research scholar Moharana Choudhury came to know about the situation, he wanted to do something about it. He started by protesting against this discrimination, first in small groups, later starting a Facebook group for like-minded professionals from fields like environmental management, environmental engineering, environmental laws, environmental economics, remote sensing, disaster management, etc. Started in 2010, the group is called Voice of Environment where they upload details of the protests with pictures, videos and stories. Group members also post paper cuttings of vacancies for pure environmental professions where environmental studies is not even mentioned as a subject for eligibility.
Later Voice of Environment was launched on WhatsApp too. With this group, thousands of environmental professionals are fighting for equipping schools and colleges with a qualitative structure of environmental education.
Recently, the Supreme Court asked the Ministry of Human Resource and Development to constitute a core committee to monitor and ensure that all state boards comply with the order seeking implementation of the directive to make environment education a compulsory subject in schools across the country. Voice of Environment is disseminating information through various channels to put pressure on the union and state governments to make this happen.
Moharana explains that the government agencies don’t always comply with the court orders. The National Green Tribunal highlighted the relevance of environmental studies with regard to the eligibility criteria for appointment of the chairman and member secretary of state pollution control boards. If the said persion isn’t a graduate/post graduate in environmental studies as a specialized subject, he/she isn’t eligible for the position. “The first criteria of “Special Knowledge” for appointment of Chairman (of State Pollution Control Board) as prescribed under Section 4(2)(a) of the Water Act and Section 5(2) of the Air Act unambiguously means knowledge acquired through a well-designed special course based on topics pertaining to environment and its protection”.
“Though it has not been specifically mentioned in the aforesaid provisions that basic academic qualification in environmental protection is required, the words special knowledge taken within its ambit such requirement as the legislature cannot be presumed to be oblivious of existence of such basic qualifications”.
But in reality, a majority of states except don’t comply with these provisions.
Moharana says, “Voice of Environment has already submitted a memorandum to Union MoEFCC, MHRD and to Departments of Environment and Forests, with online signatures of thousands of environmental professionals and students.” He is quite optimistic that efforts won’t go in vain.
India submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions/INDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change October 2 last year in the wake of the Paris Climate Accord. Government of India decided to ratify the Paris Climate Change Agreement this year and it’s a welcome move.
Despite of being a key global player in the Climate negotiations, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is facing serious lack of experts in the work force. We need professionals who have the knowledge of environmental policy, management and administration so that we can comply with the objectives of carbon emission reduction.
(Written by Kumar Deepak)
Visit the Facebook page here.