India: Over 200 NGOs Protest ‘Hasty’ Clearances for 70 projects

Greenpeace is struggling with forest dwellers to protect Mahan in Madhya Pradesh from mining

Greenpeace is struggling with forest dwellers to protect Mahan in Madhya Pradesh from mining

by  / TNN

NEW DELHI: Backed by villagers and displaced people from different states, members of 200 NGOs from across the country on Monday slammed environment and forests minister M Veerappa Moily for ignoring environment and social concerns while granting speedy clearances to mining and infrastructure projects.

Alleging that recent clearances pointed to “high corruption”, the groups wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They also demanded immediate rollback of the environment and forest clearances.

They said recent environment and forest clearances to over 70 projects worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore had sent a clear signal that “environmental protection and people’s livelihoods are to be ignored in order to project an industry-friendly image of the government”.

Articulating concerns of the groups, former information commissioner in the Central Information Commission Shailesh Gandhi said, “The recent clearing spree by Moily was done with lack of transparency and accountability. It points to high corruption and complete neglect of our future generations by the UPA government.”

Gandhi, flanked by RTI activists including Shekhar Singh, Ashish Kothari and Vimal Bhai, said, “The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) must suo moto make available to the public complete files including all the file notings in this matter so that citizens may realize the reasons for this apparent change of gear.”

Members of civil society, including Greenpeace India, demanded that ahead of the 2014 general elections, the government should publicly affirm that the primary mandate of the environment ministry is not to grant clearances and subvert existing legislation, but to protect the environment for public interest.

Shekhar Singh said, “If the trends (reckless green clearances) are not halted and reversed soon, we face an ecological crisis that will make most of the other gains irrelevant.”

The groups’ letter to the PM said the recent clearances by Moily was “sending out clear signals that the UPA government is going all out to appease corporate India” ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

They said the minister’s actions over the last month had undermined the very mandate of the environment ministry, whose performance must be judged on how it protects the environment, and not on the number and speed of clearances it gives for India Inc’s big ticket projects.

Stating that the government’s pretence of being pro-poor and pro-rights had come to an end, they said, “The political gains that helped the UPA in 2009 through its championing of the FRA, NREGA and Right to Information Act will be absent in 2014 due to the manner in which a powerful section of the government has actively undermined these key legislations to benefit a section of industry.”

They, however, added, “This is of course not to say that other mainstream parties will be any better, the BJP’s record in Gujarat, for instance, is an ecological disaster.”

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