Rising pollutant emissions from coal-based power plants in Indonesia is an urgent and immediate concern.
Environmentalists are rightly alarmed that the NDA government is busy dismantling the environmental regulatory system in the country. Over the past two months, the media has reported that clearances for projects, from mining to roads, have been fast-tracked. While the web¬site of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has not been updated in August, in the two months till July end, forest clearance was granted to over 92 pro¬jects, which will divert some 1,600 hectares of forest.
Madhav Gadgil and K Kasturirangan are both scientists of great repute. But both are caught up in a controversy on how the Western Ghats—the vast biological treasure trove spread over the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu—should be protected. First the Ministry of Environment and Forests asked Gadgil to submit a plan for protection of the Ghats. When this was done in mid-2011, the ministry sat on the document for months, refusing to release it even for public discussion.
When I look back at 2013, I hear a cacophony. There was huge dissent about the way we are mismanaging coal reserves; the Supreme Court shut down iron ore mining in Goa; there was outcry about rampant sand mining and the havoc it is wreaking on rivers. There were equally loud calls for the need for green clearance to all projects, from hydropower projects in the Himalayas to mines in dense forests of central India. One side wanted to shut everything; another wanted to open up everything.
In Goa mines are closed. In Bellary, iron ore mines, once closed, have been opened on the condition that they will now follow a plan for environmental restoration and will not indulge in unseemly and distasteful activities. But the institutions for checking the reformed miners are still in disarray. They cannot monitor and enforce the rules. So, believe it or not, little will actually change in the Bellary landscape.
The rupee has crashed, growth is down and there is panic that the India story may be over or, at least, seriously dented. For most commentators, the underlying reason for the decline is green regulations. They think environmentalists are squarely to blame.
The outrage over the suspension of an official, Durga Shakti Nagpal, for simply doing her job—check illegal sand mining in the rivers of Uttar Pradesh—has highlighted a crucial issue. It is now evident that illegal mining of sand from rivers and beaches is rampant and the underbelly of this industry (I’m calling it industry for want of a better word) is powerful and connected. Worse still, all this is happening in violation of the orders of the apex court of the country.
Will it help sound mining or mining companies?
Shah Commission report shows how authorities, mine owners stripped Goa of iron
There is nothing more criminal than the conspiracy of silence. There is also nothing more abject than scientists participating in acquiescence and deceit.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on September 14, 2012 has constituted a committee to look into violations of environmental and coastal regulation zone clearances by Adani Port and SEZ Ltd. in Mundra taluka of Kutch district in Gujarat.