Finally, the environment seems to be rearing its head in the run up to the elections. Unfortunately, its for all the wrong reasons. Both our leading parties seem eager to appease private interests and assure them that environmental clearances will be given faster. It is alleged that Jayanthi Natrajan was ushered out of the Ministry for delaying things. Are these allegations true? Has there been a dramatic, unwarranted drop in environmental clearances in the past couple of years?
For today’s post I looked at Environmental Clearances and TORs granted by the Ministry of Environment in the past 4 years. All data is taken from the incredibly helpful website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Thank you, Mr. Ramesh.
The figures seem to indicate no slow-down. If anything, we seem to be signing over our natural resources with even more gusto than usual. The Ministry granted 274 Mining TORs in the past year. This is nearly 4 times those granted in the previous year. In 2013, we granted environmental clearances to 45 coal mining projects. 45! This at a time when there is a global push against using coal. The only section where there seems to be a slow down is in Thermal Projects. And come on, given the incredible polluting power of these projects this can’t necessarily be a bad thing.
Our current environment minister is also the Minister of Petroleum. His ministry is reported to have given 70 project clearances in the last 20 days.
This is in stark contrast to government resolve against polluters. I tried to obtain figures for action taken by the government against polluters. Sadly, there seems to be none reported. None! If you look at a compendium of important environmental cases in the country, none are initiated by the state. All cases are initiated by private citizens or activist groups. Why is it that we seem so eager to court industries but unwilling to take them to task when they pollute our environs?
Yes, exploitation of natural resources is necessary for economic development. But not in the indiscriminate way that the Indian government seems to favour. Every single climate change scenario puts India at high risk. The country’s geographic location, vast numbers of vulnerable population and our limited disaster management skills mandate that we take the environment more seriously.
The world over there is an increasing realization that the current model of development is unsustainable. Cleaner technology, slower deforestation and sustainable practices are being used by countries all over. Yet, Indian politics seems divorced from this reality. Our government should recognize its responsibility to protect our resources for present and future generations.
The environment should be a key agenda for our next government. The agenda should be protection, not indiscriminate exploitation.