Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President at the 15th International Conference on Metal Ions & Organic Pollutants in Biology, Medicine and Environment (Metal Ions 2019) at CSIR-NEERI in Nagpur on October 30, 2019.

Nagpur | October 30, 2019

“I am delighted to be present here today at CSIR– National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) for the ‘International Conference on Ions’.

Let me take this opportunity to applaud CSIR’s people centric and nation centric approach to science and technology.

I am aware that NEERI, a premier laboratory of CSIR, has been focusing on environment and serving the nation for over 60 years. I commend it for its contribution to the industry and society and for playing an important role in  Environmental Science and Engineering for Sustainable Development.

I am glad to note that as a part of CSIR-NEERI’s responsibility to the society,  NEERI is organizing 15th International Symposium on “Metal Ions & Organic Pollutants in Biology, Medicine and Environment (Metal Ions 2019)” in association with several other organizations.

I am told that the symposium would highlight the challenges with respect to Air Quality and Health, Cancer Imaging and Therapeutics, Human Diseases and Environmental Pollutants, Risk Assessment and Remediation, Metal-based Nanotechnology and Toxicology, Metal ions in Radiation Response and its Modification, Role of Major and Minor elements in Health & Environment and Environmental Carcinogens and Adverse Impacts.

I also congratulate CSIR-NEERI for initiating a comprehensive public outreach programme “Jagruti-Ek Samaj, Ek Lakshya” on Creating Alliance for Rivers (AFR) and Initiate Water Literacy, which is indeed a need of the hour.

I am sure that this conference will serve as a launch pad for new ideas and new solutions to the pressing health and environmental challenges of our time.

For centuries, the power of science has propelled us forward. It has unlocked the mysteries of the natural world and driven human innovation. Robust scientific inquiry serves as the basis for progress by providing a sturdy, objective foundation on which to build capabilities.

Conferences like this serve the purpose of advancing the spirit of scientific enquiry and hence are of paramount importance.

I am particularly impressed with the array of challenges that the conference is deliberating and pondering upon.

Environmental pollution and deterioration in the Air Quality are among the foremost challenges the country faces today.

We cannot think about building a safe, secure, healthy and prosperous future when our cities, the engines of growth, are choking in noxious fumes and when our water and our soil are polluted.

The Air Quality Index measurements in most of our major cities constantly register air qualities that are “poor” or “severe”. Air Quality in Delhi yesterday fell in the category of “Hazardous” with PM 10 and PM 2.5 particle measurement indices soaring high.

The Centre for Science and Environment’s State of India’s Environment (SoE) Report, 2019 finds that air pollution is responsible for 12.5 per cent of all deaths in India.

The numbers are indeed alarming and are a cause for great concern.

The government has commenced the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), a time-bound national-level strategy to tackle rising air pollution.

The NCAP will be a mid-term, five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. The main aim of the programme would be 20-30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024.
The metal ions and organic pollutants present in the air we breathe are extremely deleterious to health.

The CSE Report also estimates that 86 water bodies are critically polluted. Both surface and groundwater in the country are under stress. 

Groundwater is also facing overexploitation. There has been an unsustainable increase in the number of deep tube wells that has gone up by 80 per cent between 2006-07 and 2013-14.

It is a cause for great concern that as India grows and urbanizes, its water bodies are getting toxic. 

It has been estimated that around 70% of surface water in India is unfit for consumption. (World Economic Forum/Word Bank reports)

A recent World Bank report suggests that release of pollution upstream lowers economic growth in downstream areas, reducing GDP growth in these regions by up to a third.

The World Economic Forum finds that the cost of environmental degradation in India is estimated to be INR 3.75 trillion ($80 billion) a year.

Countering pollution would require a spectrum of measures, from the small every day steps one can take, to ground-breaking innovations.

The quantity and type of metal ions present in water determine the possible health and environmental hazards. Detection and removal of contamination from water in a cost-effective manner must be our priority.

In addition to promoting clean and renewable sources of energy, we must also take measures to reduce emissions and clean massive emissions right at the source through filters, ion exchangers, electrolytic separators and catalytic converters.

Scientists and researchers such as yourself must strive to innovate and find out-of-box and ingenious solutions to arrest this menace of pollution. 

My dear sisters and brothers,

Cancer burden in India has also more than doubled over the last 26 years. It is stated to be the second most common cause of death in India after cardiovascular disease.

A number of studies have linked cancer to several environmental factors including pollution and radiation.

The key to curing cancer is early detection, in which imaging plays a crucial part. We must also constantly innovate and create new, less invasive treatment protocols for cancer that are affordable and accessible.

Human health and wellbeing are fundamental to the progress of any nation. We must ensure that every  citizen has a good quality of life and access to opportunities for growth and prosperity.

The ultimate aim of all innovation and scientific breakthroughs must be betterment of the human condition, the alleviation of suffering and the promotion of stability, peace and harmony.

My dear sisters and brothers,

India is now witnessing urbanization at an unprecedented rate.

Villages and urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India, popularly called as Smart City and Smart Village program, will never be successful if we neglect the environment and its intricacies.

The understanding of environmental and health hazards associated with any socio-economic development has become mandatory and Indian scientists and technocrats need to orient their research towards identifying the cause and mitigation measures.

Our Smart Cities must not only be home to smart infrastructure but also to smart sustainability solutions.

To preserve our environment, Government has initiated various plans which are outcomes of rigorous brainstorming by the scientific community and policymakers in using a trans-disciplinary approach, much like this symposium.

The government introduced Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act (CAMPA) in 2016. It also established National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund the same year.

The Green Skill Development Programme was launched in June 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. ‘Green skills’ refers to those that contribute to preserve and restore environment and create a sustainable future. Hence, the programme focuses on developing skills among the youth in the environment and forest sector.

The ‘Namami Gange Programme’ was approved by the government in 2014. Important achievements of this national program include creating sewerage treatment capacity, riverfront development and surface cleaning. The programme is being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) at the national level and State Program Management Groups (SPMGs) at the state level. Moreover, 63 sewerage management projects are implemented in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.

But much more needs to done to ensure that our development is balanced with focus on environmental conservation. I do not, for a second, believe that the two goals are mutually exclusive.

Development is ultimately for the welfare of the common man. This is a mandate that cannot be compromised.

I hope that conferences like this will pave the way for a more environmentally and socially conscious development strategy.

I declare the program and the symposia open and wish it a grand success.

Jai Hind!”