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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09NEWDELHI2344 2009-11-20 03:28:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

U/S OTERO ENGAGES INDIAN MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND

Tags:   SENV PREL TSPL KSCA KGHG IN 
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DE RUEHNE #2344/01 3240328
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R 200328Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8650
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002344 

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STATE FOR SECC TODD STERN
DEPT OF ENERGY FOR TCUTLER, CGILLESPIE, MGINZBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PREL TSPL KSCA KGHG IN
SUBJECT: U/S OTERO ENGAGES INDIAN MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND
FORESTS SECRETARY SHARMA ON ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION

REF: NEW DELHI 2308



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Following the Global Issues Forum held November 5
(Reftel), Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Otero met
with Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)Secretary Sharma on
November 6 to discuss areas for global cooperation on environmental
issues including forestry, climate change, mercury, and wildlife.
U/S Otero noted how bilateral cooperation on these issues
underscored the strength and depth of the Indo-U.S. relationship and
highlighted the need for India to take the lead in regional
environmental cooperation. Secretary Sharma stated India sought a
more proactive role in the region and welcomed U.S. collaboration
but that on issues such as climate change and mercury abatement,
India stood with developing countries and needed both financial
assistance and technology transfer to make changes at home. END
SUMMARY.
FORESTRY


--------------------------





2. (U) U/S Otero opened the discussion by inquiring into the
ministry's forestry policies. Secretary Sharma and Additional
Director General of Forests P.B. Gangopadhyay explained India has
been pursuing a policy of joint forest management since 1990 focused
on providing alternative livelihoods for villagers as well as
participation from villagers in the management of forests.
Gangopadhyay noted that despite extreme population pressure, India
has been able to retain 21 percent of its forest cover although only
2.5 percent is classified as dense forest with 19 percent being
degraded forest. Gangopadhyay stated India had a long history of
collaboration with the U.S. on forestry going back to USAID programs
of the 1980s and very much wanted to increase collaboration in this
area.



3. (U) Sharma echoed and emphasized India's desire to collaborate
with the U.S. and took the opportunity to push India's position on
Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in the
UNFCCC climate negotiations. He stated if countries such as
Indonesia and Brazil were to get credit for not destroying their
forests, India should get credit for creating more forest cover
under its "REDD plus" proposal which would not only protect natural
carbon sinks, but also create new sinks via afforestation.

CLIMATE CHANGE


--------------------------





4. (U) Otero and Sharma both recognized the difficulties involved in
reaching an internationally binding agreement at the Copenhagen
climate talks. Sharma raised the need for a strong U.S. commitment
to reduce emissions by 2020 but understood the challenge of passing
domestic climate change legislation in the United States. Sharma
stated India faced similar challenges in passing climate legislation
through the Indian Parliament. Otero noted climate change was the
most challenging issue the two countries could work on together and
that bilateral cooperation should continue no matter what resulted
at Copenhagen. Sharma strongly agreed stating the GOI very much
wanted to continue and step-up bilateral cooperation on climate
change technologies stating "wherever there is technology sharing,
India and the U.S. can work together."

MERCURY


--------------------------





5. (U) Otero raised the issue of mercury abatement and the need for
the U.S and India to work together on reducing mercury use as well
as the safe handling and storage of mercury. MoEF Advisor G.K.
Pandey responded that India was making great strides in reducing
mercury use in the chlor-alkali industry but was concerned about a
binding treaty on mercury due to the large penetration of Compact
Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) in the Indian market as well as mercury
emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pandey stated that if the
international community expected India to reduce its mercury
emissions, the developed world would have to provide financial
assistance as well as transfer the technology necessary to reduce
emissions.

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION


--------------------------





6. (U) Gangopadhyay laid out decades old GOI initiatives aimed at
conserving wildlife including the creation of protected areas,
wildlife corridors, a wildlife crime control bureau, and the various
GOI species conservation programs for tigers, elephants, gangetic

NEW DELHI 00002344 002 OF 002


dolphins, and the Great Indian Bustard. In regard to bilateral
cooperation, he noted the excellent cooperation between the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Institute of India in
species conservation. Gangopadhyay also noted more recent
cooperation between the Forest Survey of India and NASA on better
methodology for identifying forest fires via satellite data.



7. (U) In regard to regional cooperation in wildlife conservation,
Sharma raised a recent ministerial meeting held in Delhi between the
environment ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC). He stated there was a growing commitment
within MoEF for regional cooperation on environmental issues and
stated India "wanted SAARC to work" in terms of environmental
cooperation.

COMMENT


--------------------------





8. (SBU) MoEF clearly wants to engage bilaterally on environmental
issues and worked hard to showcase its work in these areas.
However, Secretary Sharma and his colleagues tended to exaggerate
MoEF's achievements as its longstanding programs in joint forest
management, reforestation, species conservation, and wildlife crime
are not, and have never been, impressive. However, there appears to
be a new interest in regional cooperation coinciding with Minister
Jairam Ramesh's tenure at MoEF. Post suspects the strong desire for
bilateral cooperation with the U.S. may be designed to build
capacity which would allow India to play a greater leadership role
in the region.



9. (U) This cable has been approved by Under Secretary Otero.

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