Thursday, October 02, 2014

India's environment is at risk under Narendra Modi govt, heed to reason, advises New York Times editorial

 A Greenpeace protest in Mahan jungles, Madhya Pradesh
By Our Representative
The day on which Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Delhi from his five day tumultuous tour of New York and Washington and a claimed successful dialogue with US president Barrack Obama, the New York Times (NYT) has, in a sharply worded editorial titled India’s “Environment at Risk”, authored by its powerful editorial board collective, has declared that the Government of India’s (GoI’s) effort towards “gutting environmental protection laws and demonizing citizen groups that raise legitimate concerns are no way to move the nation forward.”
In fact, the NYT blames the GoI for showing “little tolerance for what it perceives as environmental interference with its development agenda.” It says, “On the eve of his departure for the United States last week, Modi opened his Make in India campaign to attract foreign investment.” Pointing out that for this India’s laws and regulations may be meriting reform, “and the government needs investment to kick-start the energy and other infrastructure developments the country needs so badly”. However, this should not mean environment should be undermined – a message Modi should take “from the courts”.
The NYT refers to the Supreme Court of India’s “wise” act of protecting both the nation’s democracy and environment in its “landmark decision” last week that orders the government to scrap 214 coal mining concessions. “Among the cancellations is a concession granted to Essar Energy and its Indian partner, Hindalco Industries, in the Mahan forest in the state of Madhya Pradesh”, it says, underling, “Local communities had fought bitterly to block the mine, which they feared would destroy large tracts of the forest where they live.”
“Such protests have greatly annoyed the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, the editorial notes, objecting to the Ministry of Environment and Forests move to “exempt proposals to expand coal-mining operations from the public hearings that were previously required.” In fact, the GoI went so far as support the Intelligence Bureau report which had sought to accuse Greenpeace India for organizing protests the in the Mahan forests of Madhya Pradesh. The GoI said Greenpeace was “threatening India’s national economic security”.
Things did not end here, the NYT says. “Then, Modi’s government blocked the organization’s financing.” Only in early September, the situation for Greenpeace India returned to normal, thanks to “the Delhi High Court ordered the government to lift the ban.” Yet, the Modi government did not stop undermining environmental norms in India.

Citing how the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has lately set up a panel to review various bedrock national laws protecting forests, wildlife, clean water and clean air, with a view to overturning requirements industry doesn’t like, the NYT says, this did not seem enough for the GoI. 
The government is now seeking to "undo a reformed Land Acquisition Act that was approved last year and requires fair compensation for and restoration of lands seized for development. The law requires private companies to obtain the consent of 80 per cent of the people whose land they wish to acquire. Industry has complained the new requirements are too onerous”, the NYT concludes.

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