From Down to Earth: It looks like the environmental clearance process is becoming a formality. The quality of assessment, compliance of clearance conditions and the involvement of local community through public hearings are being further weakened. The purpose is to ease the process of obtaining clearances for mega projects like Bharatmala Pariyojana and Sagar Mala.
The UPA government didn’t have a stellar record on environment, but what has happened in past five years is unprecedented. The biggest statistical evidence for this lies in the Environmental Performance Index, where India was ranked the fourth-worst country (177) in the world out of 180 last year. Five years ago, India was ranked 155th.
From The Business Standard: “Selected companies like Reliance, Essar have been given the task of providing crop insurance. In just one Maharashtra district, where the soya crop failed, Reliance earned a net profit of Rs 143 crore without investing a single rupee. Now, multiply this amount to each of the districts it has been entrusted.”
Ten years after the global financial crisis, a debt-fuelled world economy is headed towards another crash, the IMF has warned. With the Rupee at a record low, unemployment at a 20-year high, and 78 of its largest corporations defaulting on massive debts, India’s rapidly emerging as the epicentre of a crisis that could dwarf 2008.
To the shock of greens everywhere, Indian PM Modi, whose government has absolutely the worst environmental track record in the country’s history, has been declared a UN “Champion of the Earth”. However, coming from Erik Solheim, the UN environment chief facing a string of corruption allegations himself, this ‘honour’ may not be all that surprising.
A startlingly pessimistic vision of India’s looming environmental and economic collapse by a senior business leader deserves our urgent attention and ought to revive the debate on development, democracy and policy choices. It’s also the closest we have got to a confession from an insider as to what has really been going in the country.
From Climate Home News: Perhaps the most egregious fix, given the prominence of the issue and its consequences for Indians’ health, is the Modi government’s attempts to defer a December 2017 deadline for air pollution standards for thermal power plants. Without these, India’s hopes of reducing deadly air pollution from its electricity sector are nixed.
From Change.org: India’s National Mineral Policy is open till Feb 9, 2018 for public comments. Minerals are a shared inheritance. The present mining system in India is leading to enormous losses of our mineral wealth, with only a few cronies benefiting. This must stop. Hence we are sending the representation to the Ministry of Mines.
India has just climbed an unprecedented 30 spots on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” ranking, which’s being celebrated as a historic moment by the mainstream media. This Down to Earth report shows how this ‘achievement’ has come at a possibly permanent damage to the environment, thanks to a steady dilution of regulatory norms.
Kumar Sundaram writes in The Ecologist: Dubbing nuclear energy as a solution to climate change has been a key strategy of the Indian government for selling nuclear projects to the public as well as justifying the spree of nuclear agreements with other countries. Here are three reasons why this is not feasible, desirable and cost-effective.
From Guardian/Al Jazeera: Proposals for one of the world’s largest mines in Queensland threaten not only the Great Barrier Reef, but also global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Australia’s government is changing legislation protecting land rights for Aboriginal people in order to get Adani’s Carmichael mine, one of the world’s largest, project over the line.
India’s former energy secretary E.A.S. Sharma writes in The Wire: Everyone knows that the NPA problem is due to the lack of due diligence on the part of banks. If banks were to refuse new loans to some of these indebted companies, nearly 40% of the coal blocks assigned to them would not get developed.
The digital economy is a design for atomisation, for separation… Imposing the digital economy through a “cash ban” is a form of technological dictatorship, in the hands of the world’s billionaires. Economic diversity and technological pluralism are India’s strength and it is the “hard cash” that insulated India from the global market’s crash of 2008.
Devinder Sharma writes: After a month of demonetisation, the picture in the rural areas remains too bleak. I know of villages where the farmers had to return empty handed even after seven days of queuing up. As a TISS study points out, nearly 81 per cent of the villages do not have access to banking.
Shankar Gopalakrishnan writes: Demonetisation’s biggest impact will be on the distribution of resources within the economy, whatever happens to the economy as a whole. Demonetisation’s a giant vacuum, sucking up the resources of the weak and delivering them to the powerful, while acting like it’s doing the opposite. More importantly, this transfer will be permanent.
Acclaimed journalist P. Sainath reports from rural Maharashtra: The “Modi masterstroke”, a term contrived by assorted anchors and other clowns on television to hail an unbelievably stupid action, is spreading agony and misery in its wake across the countryside. If there’s been any stroke, it’s the one the heart of the rural economy has suffered.
C.P. Chandrasekhar writes: Even the kind of economic growth that liberalisation actually delivered is proving unsustainable. So, the belief that growth would remain high for years to come, delivering benefits even to those at the bottom of the income pyramid and those steeped in poverty and deprivation, has now revealed itself to be a myth.
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.
Is ‘crony capitalism’ behind Rajan’s impending exit? RBI has been cracking the whip on major banks, collectively saddled with Rs 5,00,000 crore of bad loans. The banks in turn started forcing big debtors–including Reliance, Essar and Adani-to sell prized assets to repay debts. The numbers in this May 8 report in The Hindu speak volumes.
Martin Parker writes: We live in an age of conspiracies about a world shaped by shadowy plots, secret organisations and deals behind closed doors. Since at least the mid-1960s, the Bilderberg meetings have been seen by commentators on the right and left as one of the places where the New World Order does its business.