Wednesday, September 09, 2009

India trying to soften environment rules?

"Calling the Bluff: Revealing the state of Monitoring and Compliance of Environmental Clearance Conditions" is a new report on how the Indian government is rushing to soften environmental rules for project developers.

Kalpavriksha says the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is on the verge of deciding on whether to grant a self certification option to project proponents so that project expansion and modernization proposals can be exempt from seeking environment clearances. This is one of the major amendments proposed to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006 which delineates a legal process for the grant of environment clearances to industrial and infrastructure projects.

The report includes examples and statistics on how the government agencies have failed in the past in enforcing compliance. Some of the points are:
  • Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) clears 80-100 projects every month with a range of environment and social conditions.
  • At present MoEF has over 6000 projects to monitor through 6 regional offices and a staff of 2-4 officers per office for the task.
  • Projects granted environment clearance are monitored once in 3 to 4 years.
  • No centralized record of non-compliance is maintained by the MoEF
  • Less than 50% of the projects cleared in 2003 had monitoring reports generated by the MoEF
  • Only 150 of the 223 projects cleared in the year 2003 had atleast one compliance report submitted by project authorities.

The NGO says that Despite the dismal state of compliance, the MoEF continues to propose amendments such as the latest one rather than address the fundamental problems of impact assessment as a science and as a process of decision-making.

Development at any cost may sound appealing to some, it is definitely not sustainable and not a wise one.


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