The golden sun rays playing peek a boo with the long trees will not do so
The soothing sounds made by the water flowing down the lows and highs of the rocks will not do so
The thirsty herds of animals drinking water at sunset will not do so
The beautiful migrant birds flying in to the region for their survival will not do so
The indigenous people living in harmony with the nature will not do so
The mountains, the valley’s, the rivers, the creeks, the trees, the wilderness
will be reduced to symbols of beauty, expressions in poetry, pictures on greeting cards, paintings on the walls, memories from the past
The native birds, the migrant birds, the mammals the reptiles, the amphibians, the coral reefs
Will become subjects for research, artifacts in the museums
The indigenous people
Will become landless, jobless and misfits in their own country
The black money may or may not make a difference to us; the current day politics may or may not make a difference to us; but a few lakh trees getting killed mercilessly, a few hundred rivers ruthlessly being diverted, a few hundred mines forcefully dug in sensitive areas will certainly have an impact. Not only on us, but also on the future generations.
Mr Jayaram Ramesh had admitted how he helpless he was and himself admitted how he had condoned environmental violations (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/pressure-on-me-to-clear-projects-jairam/151500-3.html) and hence the need for all of us to be aware, to be vigilant, to question and to do everything in our legal powers to prevent natural disasters rather than reacting to after the natural disasters.
Take a look at these sweeping changes, no i’m not talking about the broom sweeping that’s being done these days as part of the Swach Bharat Campaign, i’m talking about the changes done in the past couple of months to facilitate the clearance of hundreds of industrial projects.
- The National Green Tribunal, the only body below Supreme court, which has the expertise and knowledge to fight the environment/forest cases, will be reduced to an administrative body from a Judicial body.
- The National Board of wildlife has been made toothless violating the wildlife protection act
- The tribals and/or gram sabhas who were a critical part of the projects impacting them, are no longer part of the consultation process
- Public hearings in some cases are being done away with
- The already polluted places/cities of the country are being opened up again in the name of development without addressing the underlying issues
- Transparency is not being maintained on how and why the industrial projects are being cleared?
A few relevant details
I: the National Green Tribunal:
- National Green Tribunal (NGT) is the only judicial body below the Supreme Court before which cases related to environment and forests can be filed.
- NGT is also the first recourse anybody except the
- project proponent has to be heard on any environmental and forest clearances.
- The clearance processes, handled by the ministry’s statutory advisory bodies, do not have a fixed process of engaging with other stakeholders directly.
- The NGT hears all first challenges to environmental and forest clearances. Its orders can be appealed against in the Supreme Court.
Members of National Green Tribunal:
- Chairperson: Retired Supreme Court justice or a high court chief justice.
- 10 – 20 Judicial Members
- 10 – 20 Expert members from across the country
Judicial tribunal to be reduce to an administrative one under the ministry itself
II: The National Board of wildlife
- Needs to have 10 non official members but only has 2 instead
- Needs to have 5 independent NGO’s instead has only one quasi – government
- Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, Gandhinagar, Gujarat” which is a Gujarat Government organization and not an NGO
- The meeting minutes were always made available on the public domain but not the last meeting that happened in August where more than 100 projects were approved
- The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has made seeking environment clearance for development projects within 10km from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries easier by approaching the National Board for Wildlife directly instead of the state wildlife boards.
- The proposals will now be directly dealt by the NBWL standing committee headed by union environment minister
- Delinking the forest and environmental acts to allow the projects such as highways, on non-forest land without waiting for
- approvals for the stretch involving the forests
- Increasing the economic activity in the Naxal affected areas by giving clearance to minor projects needing up to 40 hectares
- Gram sabhas in forest areas have been stripped of their power to approve or reject proposals for the diversion of their forest lands for building roads, transmission lines, canals or other linear projects
- Environment Ministry has allowed coalmines with a capacity of less than 16 million tons per annum to expand without conducting a public hearing. The cut-off for this exemption used to be 8 mtpa.
- Cleared the one-time expansion of mines with capacity greater than 20 mtpa if the expansion is restricted to 6 mtpa.
- Exempted irrigation projects affecting less than 2,000 hectares from environmental clearances
- Irrigation projects below 10,000 hectares can be cleared by the state governments.
- lifted a moratorium on eight critically polluted clusters across the country
The relevant circulars pertaining to all the above changes can be found here: envfor.nic.in/circulars
Whether this is development in harmony with the environment or development to ruin the environment is a question that we the people must try to answer. The current government is very keen on fast tracking the clearance of the industrial projects, the environmental projects, the mining projects, the hydro electric power projects, the thermal power projects. Fast tracking the project clearance is all fine but it must not be done at the cost of endangering the wildlife, the forests, the environment and the people. With the media playing very little to zero role in highlighting these issues or debating about them, the onus is really on us to intervene, to understand, to question and to safeguard. After all development is not about addressing just our immediate future it’s about doing so without jeopardizing our future generations.