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.
Modi govt and environment
Ritwick Dutta writes: India’s Environment minister recently urged his colleagues to be wary of foreign-funded NGOs. Ironically, his own party, the ruling BJP, was held guilty by the Delhi High Court for accepting funds from Vedanta, a UK-based company accused of gross environmental and human rights violations. Other violators include Lafarge, POSCO and Coca Cola.
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.
Daripalli Ramaiah, recently awarded the Padmashri, India’s third highest civilian honour, has dedicated his life to increasing the country’s green cover and in the process has been credited with planting one crore saplings. The fight of Ramaiah to plant trees was not alone, as his wife Janamma has also made significant contribution to tree planting.
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.
Greenpeace reports: India remains committed to one of the most aggressive programmes to build new coal plants (some 600 of them) that the planet has ever seen. Yet, 94% of the coal power capacity currently under construction will be lying idle. What’s more, solar power’s now cheaper than coal power, by the government’s own admission.
Katherine Ross reports: Last month’s release of India’s ambitious year-on-year solar energy capacity targets chart a roadmap for achieving the country’s 2022 goal. This sequence of yearly targets—as opposed to an assumed growth trend between current capacity and targeted capacity—shows that India is making concerted plans to reach its goals announced at the Paris talks.
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.
Colin Todhunter writes: With Modi now at the helm, the government is doing the bidding of global biotech companies and is currently trying to push through herbicide-tolerant GM mustard based on fraudulent tests and ‘regulatory delinquency‘, which will not only open the door to GM crops but will boost the sales of Bayer’s glufinosate herbicide.
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.
The Centre has endorsed various states’ move to list wild animals – elephants in Bengal, monkeys in Uttarakhand, peacocks in Goa and nilgai in Bihar – as ‘vermin’, allowing them to be culled. With human-animal conflict once again in under the lens, we present a selection of articles that examine both sides of the story.
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?