Interview with Pune Herald
1. When and how did you get involved in the international effort about
In 1987 the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer was finalised through the negotiating process under the patronage of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It aimed at protecting our common natural resource i.e. Stratospheric Ozone Layer which is so vital to our life on the earth. 24 governments of the world ratified it at that time. India started studying the implication of joining the Protocol and the international efforts. The Protocol stipulated that countries eliminate the production and consumption of the Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) like CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) used in the refrigeration and air-conditioning and about 90 such chemicals. The elimination had to take place as per the calendar stated in the Protocol
In 1989, Government of India invited me to develop a strategic approach for the Indian Government for joining this international treaty. That time I was working in the private sector and had done environmental impact assessments for setting up the large chemical complexes in India. My education in IIT, grounding in the of private sector, experiences in the well known environment friendly companies like Tata Chemicals, made me suitable candidate for contributing to the development of the Indian strategy for the Montreal Protocol.
The eventual strategy that was developed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests included the strong recommendations to join the international efforts with the condition that there should be assured financial and technical assistance for the alternative technologies for the developing countries and that there is adequate time for the transition to ozone friendly technologies. This was needed so that India’s fledgling economy does not get adversely affected.
I was requested by the Government of India to participate in the international meetings to negotiate this strategic approach. That time Ms. Maneka Gandhi was Minister of Environment and she fully backed this strategic approach, which was based on the common but differentiated responsibility and polluter to pay principle. Indian approach later became common approach for all the developing countries (called as Group of 77 and China). In 1990, the approach was accepted and became integral part of the Montreal Protocol. As a result the developing countries got access to the information, technologies, products, processes and finances for the elimination of the ODS. They also got 10 years more time as compared to the developed countries to do the job.
Once such mechanism to assist the developing countries was established, I was selected through the global competition to head the efforts of the UNEP in assisting the developing countries to implement the Montreal protocol in 1992.