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Why don’t Indian media write more on climate change?

October 22, 2013

By Archita Bhatta

A fisherman walks inside a damaged port building after Cyclone Phailin hit Gopalpur village in Ganjam district in the eastern Indian state of Odisha on October 14, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A fisherman walks inside a damaged port building after Cyclone Phailin hit Gopalpur village in Ganjam district in the eastern Indian state of Odisha on October 14, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

When an Asian climate change report was launched in the Indian capital last month, it was presented by a big Indian television news channel that has no regular programming of its own on environment or climate issues, and that relies on imported Bollywood stars to attract viewers to its annual climate change gala.

Some media analysts say the slim coverage of climate issues by India’s local-language press is due more to commercial decisions and a shortage of trained science journalists than a lack of interest among readers and viewers.

One journalist who covered the launch of the report, reflecting the view of many Indians that they can do little about climate change, asked “What difference will it make if we write on such issues?  So much has been written about the dangerous pollution in the River Yamuna in the heart of Delhi. Has any difference at all been seen? None.”

Solar power is seen as a toy for wealthy city folk who can afford the expensive panels. Energy-saving refrigerators sell only if the colour suits the decor of the house or the price suits the buyer’s purse – energy use has little to do with it.  Replacing polluting car engines with compressed natural gas (CNG) is considered a bother, but has to be done because of a Supreme Court order.

The Millennium India Education Foundation, funded by the earth sciences ministry,   reported that its two-year survey (2012-2013) of Mumbai and Delhi showed that while most young urban Indians were aware of climate change, 96.5 percent of them said they were “not getting aggressively involved in formulation or implementation of climate policies”.

Yet the number of journalists focusing on the environment and climate change has been rising. “Since the time emails have become pervasive, say since the 1990s, the number of registered environmental journalists has grown to about 500,” says Daryl D’Monte, chairman of the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India. Read more at the Thomas Reuters Foundation.

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