News Click reports: The Ministry of Environment plans to amend the National Green Tribunal Act, which was passed during the UPA regime as part of India’s commitment under the Rio Declaration. The move will result in a dilution of the powers of the body, widely regarded as the most effective environmental court in the world.
Modi govt and environment
Nitin Sethi writes: Whatever a government might do to run the economic engine of the country or its politics, it has to continuously claim that it is a win-win for both the environment and development. It will talk about its moves to set up zero-effect and zero-defect industries. We all know such an idea does not exist.
Ken-Betwa river-linking project, if realised, will destroy livelihoods and ecology, including a portion of the Panna Tiger Reserve. Curiously enough, ground reports show that farmers in the project area are themselves not keen on it. Also included is a documentary, ‘Links of a Broken Chain’, as well as a detailed technical analysis of the project.
From DNA: Sagarmala is the Indian Government’s Rs 10 lakh crore programme to build Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ) and industrial clusters around 14 key ports. But, the Sagarmala plan document lays out its goals as if the coast has been an empty or unproductive space, and is now poised to be a “gateway” to growth.
The Wire reports: India’s environment ministry issued a notification that’s a remarkable show of partisan support to projects that have been illegally operating without environmental approvals. The document lays out a process by which illegal industrial units, mines, ports or hydro projects can be granted clearance and “brought into compliance” within the next six months.
There were 1.1 million premature deaths in India due to long-term exposure to pollutants. While China registered slightly higher figures, it has now acted against this hazard—the situation in India, in contrast, is getting worse. The highest number of premature deaths globally due to ozone is also in India. Might all this qualify as genocide?
India Water Portal reports: The year 2016 was an abysmal year in terms of environmental policy and conservation in India. There were also many initiatives worth talking about. Any initiative, however, is only as good as those managing it. Here we talk about four people in the country who made news for their water-related actions.
The Modi government had come with the promise of a better future for India’s rivers. Unfortunately, the promise remains unfulfilled, and there seems to be no roadmap in sight for our rivers. There’s nothing in the policies, plans or projects of the current government that would provide any ray of hope, now or in future.
Gladson Dungdung writes: With the CAMPA bill being passed, the forest department has regained its lost hegemonic power over Adivasis. Many past and present instances suggest that the CAMPA amounts to the return of a British Raj-like regime to the forest, aggravating resource based conflict and the enmity between the State and forest dwelling communities.
Campaign for Survival and Dignity release: The Rajya Sabha has passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016. This Bill essentially gives carte blanche to forest officials to spend gigantic amounts of money (over Rs. 40,000 crores) without any accountability to the people whose forests, lands and lives will be damaged or destroyed by their activities.
Sukanta Chaudhari writes: Today, a great threat looms over wetlands. Under a new environmental regime, each state will be free to form its own guidelines. Bengal’s new environment minister, has declared his intention of ‘developing’ the wetlands and even having their Ramsar status annulled. The truth is that Kolkata’s wetlands are ‘real estate in waiting’.
Jay Mazoomdar reports: Three-quarters of the Environment Ministry’s Environment Supplement Plan — 2,900 words of the 3,850-word draft — is directly lifted from a similar US government document. The draft notification proposes to allow those who go ahead with project work without prior environmental clearance. Under existing laws, these are criminal offences punishable with imprisonment.
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava reports: Massive plantation drives over the past decade have not translated into any significant increase in India’s green cover, an analysis of government data shows, putting a question mark over the money-guzzling schemes and the government’s recent move to distribute Rs 41,000 crore to the states for plantation and regeneration of forests.
Ritwick Dutta writes on the Environment Ministry’s new draft notification, which if finalised, will sound the death knell for the crucial process of Environment Impact Assessment of developmental and industrial projects in India, and thus legitimise all violations of environmental law. The notification holds serious consequences, for the environment, and for ‘Rule of Law’ itself.
Nitin Sethi scoops the latest instance of cronyism: The environment ministry has withdrawn a Rs 200 crore fine from Adani Ports for damaging the environment imposed by the UPA government, the biggest penalty for green violations on record, and also extended a 2009 environmental clearance for the company’s waterfront development project at Mundra in Gujarat.
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava reports: The National Board of Wildlife, the highest advisory body to the government on wildlife issues, has cleared more industrial projects in and around wildlife habitats in past two years of NDA rule than what its predecessor UPA-II did in its entire tenure of five years, shows the data compiled by CSE.
Two years of NDA government have meant a mixed bag for environmental governance in India, according to a performance review by the non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, While there was commendable progress on pollution control and waste management, forest governance took on a more industry-centric approach and the Paris Agreement was a missed opportunity.
In his recent monthly address on radio, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “there’s close linkage between drought and environmental degradation and there’s a need for a mass movement to save forests and to conserve every drop of water.” The statement does recognise the problem but do the government’s policies and its implementation reflect these concerns?
This March, the central government set the ball rolling on a new set of rules intended, supposedly, to protect India’s wetlands. In this special feature, we present articles that look at the state of wetlands, and critically examine the new legislation, which many fear is a case of the cure being worse than the disease.
Nachiket Kelkar writes: This Bill plans to convert 106 rivers and creeks across India into waterway canals, purportedly for ‘eco-friendly transport’ of cargo, coal, industrial raw materials, and tourism. Unfortunately there is no debate on the high ecological and social risks the NWB poses to riverine biodiversity and local resources through such irreversible engineering controls.