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March 22, 2000
Clinton makes an appeal to protect the Taj
Neena Haridas in Agra
It was US President Bill Clinton's greatest wish was to see the Taj Mahal. And so he did today. After spending about two hours in the Taj Mahal, President Clinton walked in to Taj Khema, a property of the UP government 500 yards aways from Taj, to give his 'Green Talk', marking the 30th anniversary of Earth Day.
Evidently still impressed by the Taj Mahal, Clinton expressed grave concern at the problem of environment pollution that has begun to "mar the walls of the Taj Mahal. Pollution has managed to do what years of war and plundering could not... I understand this is called marble cancer by environmentalists. If this is what pollution can do to a stone, I fear to think of what it will do to our children," said Clinton.
Clinotn said, "Today is the Earth Day -- but India is a land that has been worshipping its earth and environment for centuries. But it is now time to protect our earth because global warming is a reality."
India and US celebrated Earth Day today by signing a joint statement of co-operation in the field of energy and environment. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh signed the agreement a little before Clinton's address.
Clinton said the objective of the agreement was to exchange ideas and technologies aimed at producing clean and efficient energy without pollution and without disturbing the economic growth of both the nations. Said Clinton, "Under the agreement, the US Agency for International Development has earmarked $ 45 million for projects aimed at producing efficient energy in India, another $ 50 million for clean technology projects throughout south Asia. Besides, the US Exim bank has agreed to make available $ 200 million towards clean technology."
Clinton's talk against the backdrop of the Taj gains significance because the monument has been facing major environment problems because of leather tanneries in the adjoining areas. Besides, the high flow of tourists and vehicular pollution has also been cause of grave concern.
Clinton said, "United States has suffered the greatest pollution crises in the world -- one of our rivers caught fire because of the polluted water. We have had acid rains. This is the cost we had to pay for our rapid industrialisation. It has taken us lot of hard work and sustained effort to bring down pollution. It is no more sure that you have to use this kind of energy for economic growth. Economic growth is possible using efficient and clean technology, and that is what our endeavour should be."
Under the agreement signed between the two countries, India and US will exchange technology of non-conventional energy. India has an edge over other countries in this sector because of the scientific development that it has made in this field. Said Clinton, "You are using electric-run vehicles in and around the Taj. That is a great effort to keep the monument intact. It is this kind of effort that will save the earth from global warming."
Clinton warned that India is very vulnerable to the bad effects of global warming because of its geographical expanse and rapid economic growth.
"I am not asking India to overlook its economic concerns, but today we have the technology to make economic growth without eroding the environment."
A special invitee to the President's talk was Vir Bhadra Mishra, environmentalist and founder of Sankar Mochan Founation and Friends of Ganga. Mishra has been working on cleaning the Ganga, and President Clinton appreciated Mishra saying, "I admire your work on Ganges because, for you, it is a matter of faith and science."
Ram Prakash Gupta, the chief minister of UP, while welcoming Clinton said, "The Taj is a monument of love and I wish you had brought Mrs Hillary Clinton along with you here," to which Clinton nodded in agreement. Gupta said, "We are working on a $ 150 million project to protect the Taj from environmental protection and I am glad Clinton chose the Taj to address the issue of environment pollution."
The meeting was also attended by Indian Ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra, US Ambassador to India Richard Celeste and his wife Jaqueline Lundquist, besides a host environmentalists from India and a few school students who, to their joy, got to shake hands with Clinton.
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