Saturday, May 09, 2015

Govt of India national consultation on environmental rules with industry reps "avoids" other stakeholders

Mahesh Pandya
By Our Representative
In a move that is prompting senior #environmentalists to raise serious doubts about its motives, the Government of India has begun its “national consultation” on finalizing rules on hazardous waste, e-waste, solid waste, plastic waste and biomedical waste by keeping the country’s senior environmental experts at bay. While the consultation has already taken place in #Delhi (May 1) and #Mumbai (May 8), they are scheduled for May 22 in #Bangaluru and May 23 in #Kolkata.
The environmentalists have particularly taken strong exception to the fact that the chief organizers of each of these consultations across India are the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (#MoEFCC), the Central Pollution Control Board (#CPCB), and the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (#FICCI).
“Is the industry body so important for environment that the MoEFCC forgot to include environmental groups and the people affected by environmental pollution, who are the most important stakeholders in any consultation? Worse, why were environmentalists not even informed about the consultation, though it is of national character”, said a senior environmental expert, who managed to “sneak” into the Mumbai consultation.
Talking with Counterview, the expert, Mahesh Pandya, who heads Ahmedabad-based NGO, Paryavaran Mitra, said, “During my routine check on the MoEFCC website I learnt of the national consultation. There was no information on whom to approach if you wished to part of it. Nor did it identify venue -- probably fearing a sudden rush of environmentalist on the spot.”
Pointing out that he managed to get an invite through a source in FICCI, Pandya said, “I requested for an invite on May 3. It was to be held on May 7. But suddenly, a day earlier, I came to know that the venue had been changed to May 8. Why such mismanagement?”
“What surprised me at the consultation venue in Mumbai was, big representatives from industry, including those from Reliance and Birla, were present on the occasion, no major environmentalist from Maharashtra or Gujarat were present. Either they did not know about the consultation, or were not deliberately not invited”, he said.
Also surprising was, said Pandya, that Ashok Lavasa, secretary, MoEFCC, announced that rules on hazardous waste had already been finalized. “If that was so, what the grand idea of holding consultation on this subject?”, he wondered.
Most of those who participated in the national consultation, apart from Government of India officials and industry representatives, were environmental consultants and operators. “There were a couple of unknown environmental NGOs from Maharashtra at the consultation, and they kept quiet for most of the time”, Pandya said, adding, “The only exception was veteran biomedical waste expert Almitra Patel, 80, who has done exceptional work on municipal solid waste.”
The invitation sent to participants said, as stakeholders, they required to “analyze provisions of draft rules and their associated impacts on various stakeholders ensuring environmentally sound management of various categories of wastes in the country” and the discussion points would include “practical challenges while segregation, collection, storage, transportation and final disposal of waste; anticipated challenges while complying with the draft rules”, and “procedural bottlenecks identified during administering the various waste management rules.”
Wondering whether environmentalists or people’s organizations were not stakeholders, Pandya said, also said that invitation also said "the discussion aims to provide a structured feedback on further refining/amendments to the draft rules”. He commented, this means “avoiding any input from environmental experts or those affected by industrial pollution”.

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