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Press Releas


Two-day NGOs’ conclave ends with a charter of demands

Wants public hearings to be made a part of the decision-making process
Reforms needed in the green clearance process, agrees government. Calls for decentralising clearance and monitoring

New Delhi, February 25, 2012: The second and final day of the Anil Agarwal Dialogue on Green Clearances saw the participating civil society activists interacting with senior government officials to evolve the agenda for reforms. Making a strong pitch for reforms in the process, Tisha Chatterjee, secretary, MoEF, said that the clearance and monitoring system needed to be decentralised – regional committees and local experts needed to be given more powers.

The Anil Agarwal Dialogue was being organised here over two days by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), and it brought to the fore the various issues and concerns related to environmental and forest clearances in India. The gathering, says CSE, was one of the biggest of its kind with 150 participants from about 100 organisations. Almost every one of these organisations – coming from all over the country -- has been fighting a running battle with industry and official agencies over control of their land and water resources.

In a recent study, CSE had analysed the clearances granted by the Union ministry of environment and forests over the last five years – and found that the country saw more clearances in this period than those planned for even during the 11th and 12th Five Year Plans.

According to CSE’s analysis, green clearances are not working for the environment – clearances are being awarded despite destruction of environment and livelihoods of the people. In fact, there seem to be concerted efforts by government and industry to dilute the already existing weak processes.

Says Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general and the head of its industry and environment programme: “How much truth is there in the contention of industry that environmental and forest clearances are hampering economic development by delaying projects? We think there is none – this Dialogue was an effort to take our findings forward. We brought together all the stakeholders in this debate -- the government, the civil society and industry -- on one platform to discuss clearance processes, whether these processes are working, and what they aim to achieve.”

Reform is the key, says government
The government seemed to agree that reforms were needed. Said Chatterjee: “The baseline surveys, public hearings and the EIA report should not be done by the project proponents themselves. Independent agencies should do these things and the state may sponsor it.” He also indicated that it was necessary to separate the project clearance and monitoring processes. Currently, the regional offices of the ministry do this job, and the secretary felt that this system was unable to assess the situation on the ground.

He added: “Monitoring remains one of the key areas of concern. After the projects are given conditional clearance, it is difficult to assess whether the project developer is following these conditions. In such cases, fixing responsibilities on sub-regional committees and giving them financial powers may help.”  

Chatterjee also pointed out that the government probably lacked a clearer understanding of carrying capacity of the environment: “Right now, we think that if the ambient standards of five-six major pollutants are achieved, the carrying capacity will not be disturbed. The receptors are not taken into account. Of 168 parameters, only eight are being examined in the current environment clearance process.” 

The ministry was also of the opinion that EIA consultants needed to be well qualified, and their accreditation by the Quality Council of India was important. The ministry claimed that it has already initiated a system of fixing responsibility on the consultants and project proponents.

What the people want

  • Consent of the people is a ‘must’ before granting clearances – and therefore, the public hearing process is extremely crucial. The process, as it stands now, is a mere eyewash and a formality that actually excludes people as stakeholders. The public hearing and its report must become a part of the decision making process; it should be democratised, and the people’s verdict should be final.

  • Police or state interference should not be there.

  • A mechanism should be developed to prepare independent EIA reports.

  • EIA consultants found to be preparing fraudulent EIA reports must get exemplary punishment. Deaccreditation is not sufficient.

  • The Environmental Clearance Appraisal Committee (EAC) should be reformed – it should have the required expertise, and the process must be completely transparent. Affected communities must be invited as well.

  • Cumulative impact assessment must become the basic clearance mechanism and must be given legal force.

  • Post-project monitoring is essential.

  • Reforms are needed in the forest clearance process. This cannot remain a monopoly of the forest department.

•    For any other queries, contact Souparno Banerjee on 9910864339, souparno@cseindia.org
 

People’s consent a ‘must’ before granting green clearance to any project, say NGOs attending CSE’s mega meet on environmental and forest clearances

  • Two-day Anil Agarwal Dialogue on Green Clearances kicks off in Delhi with 150 participants from NGOs across India 

  • Dialogue organised by CSE to discuss clearance processes, whether these processes are working, and what they aim to achieve

New Delhi, February 24, 2012: “In a democratic country, things are being done in an undemocratic manner.” This statement by Krishna Murthy, an anesthetist who has been at the forefront of an intense villagers’ agitation against the government and industry in distant Sompeta (Andhra Pradesh), summed up the general mood at a gathering of non-governmental organisations from across India. This gathering, one of the biggest of its kind with 150 participants from about 100 organisations, is being organised here over two days by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The Anil Agarwal Dialogue, this time on the burning issue of Green Clearances, aims to bring to the fore the various issues and concerns related to environmental and forest clearances in India. Civil society activists attending the meet will now interact with senior government officials to evolve the agenda for reforms.

In Sompeta, farmers and fisherfolk are fighting a desperate battle to protect their wetlands against a coal-based thermal power project, the Nagarjuna CC power project. Murthy says the project will destroy the wetland and affect the livelihoods and water sources of the surrounding villages, and could lead to serious health problems.

Among the others attending this meet are activists like Onkar Vishwakarma and Suman Kumar Mehta from
SANGRAM, an organisation working for the empowerment of adivasis in the Mathadih, Domchanchi and Koderma in Jharkhand. One of SANGRAM’s key areas of work is against illegal stone mining.

There is also Smita Patnaik, from the Narishwar Raksha Samiti, an organisation based in Angul, Odisha. Smita and her colleagues have been fighting for forest rights, as well as the rights of women and dalits – specifically, on issues such as the threat of displacement faced by indigenous tribes, and sexual exploitation of women in mining areas. Smita is clear that coal mining companies must invest in afforestation, periphery development and treating and managing their overburden.

Says CSE director general Sunita Narain: “On one hand, industry in our country is demanding quicker clearances. On the other, for the people who have come here (the civil society activists), environmental issues are a matter of their livelihoods and livelihood security – these issues and concerns can no longer be undermined.”

Industry says clearances hampering progress, CSE says no
In a recent study, CSE had analysed the clearances granted by the Union ministry of environment and forests over the last five years – and came out with some startling findings. In the last five years – says the CSE analysis – the country saw more clearances than those planned for even during the 11th and 12th Five Year Plans.

Says Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general and the head of its industry and environment programme: “How much truth is there in the contention of industry that environmental and forest clearances are hampering economic development by delaying projects? We think there is none – this Dialogue is an effort to take our findings forward. We are hoping to bring together all the stakeholders in this debate -- the government, the civil society and industry -- on one platform to discuss clearance processes, whether these processes are working, and what they aim to achieve.”

According to CSE’s analysis, green clearances are not working for the environment – clearances are being awarded despite destruction of environment and livelihoods of the people. In fact, there seem to be concerted efforts by government and industry to dilute the already existing weak processes.

Most of the NGO representatives attending the meet believe that the consent of the people is a ‘must’ before granting clearances – and therefore, the public hearing process is extremely crucial. The process, as it stands now, is a mere eyewash and a formality that actually excludes people as stakeholders, says CSE.

The other key demands of these activists include a call for cumulative impact assessments, as EIAs (environment impact assessments) of individual projects are just not working; for punishing EIA consultants who do fraudulent work; and for reforming the EIA process – most importantly, the post-clearance monitoring.

CSE researchers are of the opinion that there should be a moratorium on clearances in all the areas that have been declared critically polluted by the Central Pollution Control Board. They also say that cumulative impact assessments must be done on all major rivers before giving clearances to dams.

Says Bhushan: “The environmental and social costs must be paid. We cannot have cheap development, and that too at the cost of the poor and marginalised of the country.”

People's consent a 'must' before granting green clearance to any project, say NGOs attending CSE's mega meet on environmental and forest clearances

  • Two-day Anil Agarwal Dialogue on Green Clearances kicks off in Delhi with 150 participants from NGOs across India

  • Dialogue organised by CSE to discuss clearance processes, whether these processes are working, and what they aim to achieve

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