06/04/2015 1:40 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

India's First Air Quality Index Launched By Prime Minister Narendra Modi

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to his supporters after addressing a rally organized by his party, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in Bangalore, India, Friday, April 3, 2015. Modi's speech was mostly addressed to farmers on a day that President Pranab Mukherjee signed off on the latest version of the government's land acquisition ordinance, which proposes to ease rules for acquiring land to facilitate infrastructure projects, in a country where agriculture is the main livelihood of about 60 percent of the 1.2 billion people. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched India's first 'Air Quality Index', which will start working in 10 Indian cities, and expand to others later.

"This is a major step being taken. I welcome debates on air quality in our cities," said Prakash Javdekar, minister of state for environment, forest & climate change.

This index will record pollution levels every day, and be open for public to consult. All data available will be real-time, Modi said.

The Prime Minister said that India had a long tradition of recycling and environmental awareness. He said that we needed to just look at our past to adopt ways of becoming more environmentally-conscious.

While his government has been accused of diluting environment protection norms, Modi chose to deliver a sermon based on India's history and heritage than articulating or addressing imminent challenges effectively.

"While the world is struggling with climate change, we need not look any further than our own traditions," he said in a speech in Vigyan Bhavan. "We have grown up in those traditions where Nature is worshipped and where conserving nature is very important."

He said that India has a history of recycling which is part of our every day life. Dismissing those who considered it an imported Western idea, Modi said that Indians across the country reused old clothes, containers, all parts of their food, etc. "The problem is that we have not been able to represent ourselves properly to the rest of the world," he said.

Modi blamed people who were not ready to change their own lifestyles despite their apparent stance on reducing carbon emissions.

"We had found God in plants even before Jagdish Chandra Bose discovered life in plants," he said. "It is mentioned in Gita & Mahabharat too."

Modi said that schools needed to encourage nature conservation, and it was part of India's culture. Saying development and environment went hand in hand, he said that "the thought was wrong" and both could happen simultaneously.

Noting the increase in India's dying tiger population, Modi said his government had also taken major initiatives in solar energy and wind energy.

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