Matters concerned with Environment

Saturday, June 27, 2009


PIB Press Release/ MoEF

      17:43 IST      
      Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environmental and Forests (Independent charge) said that transparency in environmental planning and management is the top priority of the ministry. Addressing a press conference here today informed that the resignation of Shri P. Abraham, IAS (rted), as Chairman of the Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley and Hydroelectric project of the ministry of Environment and Forests has been accepted. In the last few weeks, a number of NGOs had protested that Shri Abraham also serves on the boards of a number power companies which have interests in hydro-power, the minister added.

Referring to Mr Abraham’s experience in the power sector and his professional expertise, Shri Jariram Ramesh expressed the view that Shri Abraham has not misused his position in any way. He has been sensitive and responsive to perceptions of perceived conflict of interest and have taken this voluntary step which will strengthen the movement of bringing transparency in environmental planning and management.

Shri Jairam Ramesh also announced that in the grant environmental clearances, there will be four conditions to be stipulated –(i) that an annual environmental statement as mandated under Environment (Protection )Rules, 1986 will be made public by the project proponent; (ii) copy of the clearance letter will be made public by the project proponent; (iii) the status of compliance of the stipulated environmental clearance conditions including results of monitored data to be made public by the project proponent; (iv) six-monthly reports on the status compliance of the stipulated environmental clearance conditions including results of monitored data to be made public by the project proponent.

Criticizing the tendency of project promoters- both in the public sector and private sectors- to have foundation stones laid for projects even before environmental and forests clearance are obtained, Shri Jairam Ramesh said this tendency to treat environmental and forests clearances as a mere formality will no longer be acceptable.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Western Ghats all set to become world heritage site

Shishir Prashant / New Delhi/ Dehra Dun June 19, 2009, 0:56 IST

The Western Ghats, known for its evergreen tropical forests and rich biodiversity, is all set to become a world heritage site.

“By 2010, we are confident of getting world heritage site status for the Western Ghats,” said VB Mathur, dean of the Wildlife Institute of India, which has prepared a nomination dossier of 39 natural sites from states like Karnataka, Kerala, and Maharashtra under a single cluster of the Western Ghats.

India has already submitted the dossier to Unesco, which is the nodal agency for declaring heritage sites. A team of Unesco would travel to India next year to give its seal of approval in this regard.

The sites from Karnataka include Agumbe Reserve Forest, Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary, Someshwara Reserved Forest, Kudremukh National Park, Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Padinalknad Reserve Forest, Kerti Reserve Forest and Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, all major tourist attractions.

According to the guidelines of the World Heritage Convention, of which India is a signatory, each country has to prepare a tentative list of sites that it proposes to nominate as world heritage sites, Mathur said.

Surveys by WII officials with the help of a Bangalore-based agency Atree were conducted to find sites in the 150,000 sq km Western Ghats.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had assigned the responsibility of preparing nomination dossiers for Western Ghats to WII. “We submitted our nomination dossier to HRD Ministry which in turn submitted to UNESCO,” said Mathur.

There are six natural heritage sites in India which include Valley of Flowers and Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Kaziranga National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Sunderban and Keoladeo National Park.


NEAA flouts every rule in the book

Green tribunal flouts every rule in the book

(Times of India, June 21, 2009)

21 Jun 2009, 0357 hrs IST, Nitin Sethi, TNN

NEW DELHI: The murky goings-on in the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA), the only judicial body in the country allowed to hear a

grievance against

environmental clearances given to projects by the environment ministry, have emerged as replies to RTIs. Created by a special Act of Parliament, the authority has the dubious record of dismissing all but one petition that have come before it in the last 12 years.

Here is how members to the judicial body were last selected.

The five-member appellate was to have one chairperson -- a retired Supreme Court judge -- and one vice-chaiperson. But since 2005, the government has not been able to find anyone to fill these positions.

NEAA is also supposed to have three technical members. When asked in an RTI by The Access Intitiative, a group working on transparency in environment sector, how the current members were selected in 2006, the environment ministry has admitted it didn't even advertise for the position and had no fixed selection process for the appointments.

In fact, when I V Manivannan, a retired IAS officer from Tamil Nadu, sent his application, it was simply accepted by the ministry. In 2006, DMK's A Raja was the minister.

The serving DG (forests) and special secretary J C Kala recommended a retired Forest Service officer; he too was selected without any process.

Then Kala, having retired suggested his own name for vice-chairmanship and was hired as member instead.

All the three officers back in a government agency now enjoy the perks and pay of an additional secretary in the Union government.

The government has admitted on record that the "question did not arise" of setting up a selection panel for the judicial posts as these had not been advertised.

Once selected, the members till date have rejected all but one petition that they have heard. They have made just one site visit in three years. Yet, they seem to have found time -- and official funds -- to make other official trips that were unrelated with their work.

K Prasad made a trip to Varanasi to inspect the sewer treatment plant and pumping station, to Shirdi to discuss the disposal of mustard oil at Singnapur Temple and flowers from the Shirdi Temple, and to Tirupati to check out disposing off the cut off hair at the temple. None of the religious activities were though part of any case the appellate had heard and not in the work profile of members of the judicial body. In all, he made 16 trips in three years none of which was related to any case before NEAA. He has recently retired from the position and his post again lies vacant.

In the same time period, his colleague, I V Manivannan, travelled at the cost of the exchequer 11 times, each time holding "discussions" on issues unrelated to his work with officials. Each time he went to Chennai, his hometown.

The third technical member, J C Kala, participated in two sports meets while also travelling to Gulf of Munnar, and just like the other two members held "discussions" on environment on each of the seven trips he made. None of the official tours, yet again, were related to any of the cases that he and his colleagues have heard, and rejected, so far.

No airport over mangroves: Jairam Ramesh

No airport over mangroves: Jairam Ramesh

Prachi Jatania / CNN-IBN
TimePublished on Sun, Jun 21, 2009 at 16:11

Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:25 am (PDT)
New Delhi: The Ministry of Forest and Environment has put a halt on the construction of the Navi Mumbai Airport as it wants to save the mangroves at the site. Union Forest and Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, “International Airport doesn't have to be in prime ecological value land. In nine cases out of ten, alternatives can be found.”

The minister has issued a directive to the Maharashtra government to shift the site of ambitious airport project over concerns of threat to mangroves, following which the State and Centre are at loggerheads.

Spread across 20 sq km, the construction for the Rs 9000 crore Navi Mumbai airport site would mean: Clearing 150 hectares of mangroves that are crucial barriers to prevent flooding.

Reclaiming wetlands after tweaking coastal rules to allow development. Since mangroves are not classified as forest they're easy target for developers.

In fact, with persistent lobbying the CONG-NCP led State government has managed to amend the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) act as a 'special case' for the new airport.

It was the Environment ministry that gave an in-principle nod to the state's proposal.

Officials of CIDCO, the nodal agency for the project are now baffled at the Centre's change of heart Meanwhile, chairman, CIDCO Nakul Patil said, '' There's no question of changing the site. No site available that can be considered now'.'

Environment activists welcome the corrective measures. Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) Debi goenka said, ''Everybody knew this plan would be an environmental disaster.''

Tampering with nature's flood barriers led to a destructive impact on Mumbai during the July 2005 floods. With the Navi Mumbai airport plans stirring up a Centre- State debate, will the Environment ministry bowto political pressure remains to be seen.

(With inputs from Bahar Dutt)


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