Skip to main content

Of 118, just one Indian project denied coastal clearance; where's the need to dilute environmental law?: Expert

By Our Representative
A right to information (RTI) plea has revealed that of the 118 projects which had sought environmental clearance from the the Committee for CRZ and Miscellaneous Projects of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and and Climate Change (MoEFCC), just four were challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Filed by the the Environmental Impact Assessment Resource and Response Centre, the reply further reveals that just one project, i.e. KGS Aranmula Airport in Kerala, was revoked by the NGT, while the rest were allowed a go ahead. The RTI reply is for 2013-15.
Revealing this, well-known environmentalist and earth scientist R Sreedhar of the NGO Environics Trust, Delhi, in a letter to the MoEFCC, has said that this suggests the Government of India is “obsessed” with “ease of doing business”, and it is "falsely targeting"  various environmental safeguards built over the years.
Especially giving the example of the Environmental Law (Amendment) Bill, 2015, Sreedhar says, “The effective deterrent is as regressive as the position of the Government in the case of nuclear liability. Just as it restricts the liability of the project entity to Rs 500 crore in case of a nuclear disaster, this bill envisages a maximum fine of Rs 20 crore for a polluting industry.”
Objecting to this, Sreedhar says, “If a mine-dump or ash-dam breach regular in mining areas and coal-fired thermal power plants, the impact has to be beyond 10 km for evoking the maximum fine.” And if a Bhopal type tragedy happens, the “law would mean that the company pays Rs 20 crore and remains in business.”
Pointing out that the bill seeks to restrain the role of the NGT, Sreedhar says, “Many of existing laws have been diluted through executive action. For instance, projects which have a capacity expansion of 25 per cent do not have to go through a process of fresh environmental assessment process and public hearing.”
The senior expert believes, this is not the only dilution; it also includes provisions “in the name of decentralisation and cooperative federalism”, with several state governments being allowed to “keep the implementation of the Forest Rights Act in abeyance in areas where they want to grant mining leases, promote hydropower projects or industries.”
In this context, the expert says, “The most recent is the proposal to establish a District Environmental Impact Assessment Committee and Authority to grant clearance to mining projects of up to five hectares of lease area. The Irrigation Engineer is nominated as the head of this authority.”
He adds, “Everyone knows that he has a conflict of interest if it involves materials for irrigation projects. Further, when even the National and State level formations are so bereft of knowledge and courage to undertake unbiased and technical evaluations, this authority will only be a 'rubber-stamp' and a new opportunity for rent-seeking.”
The expert says, the attempt to to bring about a wholesale dilution in a range of environmental legislation began after the NDA came to power in Delhi with the formation of a High Level Committee (HCL). Made in August 2014 to “review”, its recommendations include “a ‘single window’ approval process, a fast track treatment for linear and power and coal projects, ‘a special procedure’ for ‘strategic’ and ‘national projects’.”
The expert adds, “There is also an introduction of what can be termed as the ‘private trust’ doctrine as opposed to the ‘public trust’ doctrine. Under this ‘private trust’, there is implicit trust in whatever information is submitted by the private business entities under the concept of ‘utmost good faith’.”

Comments

TRENDING

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

'Attack on free expression': ABVP 'insults' Udaipur professor for FB post

Counterview Desk   People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, condemning what it called "insult of Professor Himanshu Pandya" by students affiliated with with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP) in Udaipur, has said he was evicted from the class where he was teaching after raising "ugly slogans", forcing him to "leave the university".

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Moving towards sustainable development? Social, environmental implications of HCES data

By Dr Vandana Sehgal, Dr Amandeep Kaur*  Sustainable development, the high time agenda, encompasses economic, social, and environmental dimensions, aiming for a balance between all these aspects to ensure long-term well-being and prosperity for all. One of the crucial aspects of sustainable development is consumption patterns. Consumption patterns refer to the way individuals, households, and societies use resources and goods. Sustainable consumption patterns entail using resources efficiently, minimizing waste, and considering the environmental and social impacts of consumption choices.

Heatwave in Bundelkhand: 'Inadequate attention' on impact on birds, animals

By Bharat Dogra, Reena Yadav*  While the heat wave and its many-sided adverse impacts have been widely discussed in recent times, one important aspect of heat waves has not received adequate attention and this relates to the impact on birds and animals.

High on aesthetics, this 'pro-Naxal' Punjabi poet shunned sloganeering

By Harsh Thakor*  Surjit Patar, one of Punjab’s top progressive poets, whose life journey symbolised crusade against oppression, died of cardiac arrest at his residence on Barewal Road in Ludhiana, on 11 May 2024, at the age of 79. In Barnala, on June 9th, a gathering of around 10,000 persons for all walks of life was staged in his memory, by the Gursharan Singh Lok Kala Salam Kafla. An award was presented to members of Patar’s family.