Sunday, April 25, 2010

An open letter to Union minster for Environment and Forests

Dear Sir,

Subject: Support for ministry’s principled stand on Acts of Parliament

Greetings from the Western Ghats.

The recent news media seem to be replete with reports that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is facing criticism that environment clearance to many projects, which will need either diversion of forest lands OR are proposed to be set up in environmentally sensitive areas, is being denied or delayed while seeking clarifications. The reports also indicate that few of your cabinet colleagues are bringing political pressure seeking dilution of the relevant regulations to get exemption from the provisions of many relevant Acts.

A large number of law abiding and environmentally conscious citizens of this country are in support of the principled stand taken by MoEF on these matters. 

The proponents of such ill-conceived projects need to be reminded that MoEF has been entrusted with the onerous responsibility of protecting our natural resources and environment through the Environmental Protection Act, the Forest Conservation Act and the Wild Life Protection Act. In view of this critical responsibility the MoEF should not be seen as a rubber stamp of approval for every project, including the ill conceived projects.

Its is highly deplorable that high impact projects in such environmentally sensitive areas, such as road through a protected forest in Karnataka OR in Madhya Pradesh OR Hubli-Ankola railway through thick forests of Western Ghats OR Gundia Hydel Project in Western Ghats, which may reduce the travel time by an hour or two OR reduce the distance by few kM OR provide few MW of power for wasteful uses, are considered highly essential to seek exemptions as compared to the integrity of thick forests or the conservation of rich bio-diversity. These people seem to be completely ignorant of the criticality of rich bio-diversity we have in our forests, and the fact that the forest & tree cover in the country is already below 23% against the national target of 33%.

People, who are aware of the destruction of our nature through unscientific mining activities, are also satisfied that you have taken a firm and principled stand against the enormous damage being caused by the mining. We are happy to acknowledge your stand that almost one-third of the country’s top grade coal reserve areas would not be available for mining as these areas are now considered to be ecologically very fragile. We think that in fact almost all coal mines were, or are, or will be found to be, below thick forests. The Integrated Energy Policy which envisages increasing the coal power capacity from the present level of about 80,000 MW to about 600,000 MW by 2031-32 must be reconsidered seriously in this context. Large number of additional coal mines required to support such massive coal power capacity expansion will not only reduce our forest cover (which are the best sinks of CO2) considerably but also will seek huge quantities of fresh water, which is already getting scarce. These additional mines will irreversibly destroy water security, biodiversity security, food security and national culture, as well as contributing to global and regional climate change. Our country must utilize the plentiful free energy from the Sun instead of continuing to damage water bodies, soils, plants, animals and people irreversibly through outmoded nineteenth century ideas of limitless economic growth.

If pressure lobbies are allowed to twist the laws of the land then various commitments by the government to its own people, such as National Action Plan on Climate Change, will have no meaning, and we can forget our various commitments to the international community on Global Warming.

There are any number of scientific reports in the international arena, which are consistently advocating the urgent implementation of environmentally sustainable policies through application of the law in a rigorous and timely manner before it is too late to safeguard the flora, fauna and the vulnerable sections of our society. 

Popular support to the MoEF in your endeavors in this regard can be guaranteed.

Yours sincerely

Shankar Sharma
Power Policy Analyst
Thirthahally, Karnataka

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Sharma,
    its a commandable gesture. Great. Keep it up.
    let us think practically, power for agriculture is illogical. large dams are unscientific. we only have to revive and restore the smaller water bodies and utilising the modern technology we have to create more smaller water bodies to enhance the wetland ratio of the present 81:19. we can take it to 50% very easily. once we achieve it we attain sustainability regarding food is concerned.
    We can deal with other destructive issues later.


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