The UPA govt has been an utter failure in protecting environment
After Maneka Gandhi, Jairam Ramesh was hailed as the real ‘green
minister’ holding charge of the Ministry of Environment and Forests at the
centre. He was appointed to the ministry during UPA II regime and after
successful stint he was promoted to the Rural Development ministry.
As the present UPA government completes the eighth year in office, it is time
to evaluate how it has fared in implementing the green policies. Has it been
able to protect and conserve the natural capital of the nation?
The appointment of Jairam Ramesh in 2009 did bring in some fresh air into the
otherwise morbid Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). He initiated steps
that brought in transparency into the working and decision making process in the
MoEF. He also tried to involve the affected communities, trying to implement
some of the Acts that were instrumental in protection of natural resources like
forests and water. The Forest Rights Act was pro active legislation to help the
forest dwelling communities. He gave the impression as if he was the saviour of
country’s natural resources and the interest of nature’s capital would remain in
Ironically, it was Jairam Ramesh who gave the clearances to the biggest
destructive projects like POSCO in Orissa, Lavasa in Maharashtra and Jaitapur
Nuclear Power Plant in the coastal district of Ratnagiri, also in Maharashtra.
The green signal was given without adhering to the stipulated environmental
norms and statues.
The recent orders of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh stated that the MoEF
officials behaved like meek lambs being taken to slaughter house while approving
the cement project under consideration in violation of all the laws. This
reveals the truth behind the “green” minister, who was not only meek, but had to
follow the diktats of other ministries and protect the corporate
interests, ignoring the interests of environment. The ‘green rhetoric’ did not
match with the reality. The only saving grace was the series of public
consultations across the country on Genetically Modified (GM) Food crops and the
temporary moratorium that he announced.
Ironically, it was Jairam Ramesh who gave the clearances to the biggest destructive projects like POSCO in Orissa, Lavasa in Maharashtra and Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in the coastal district of Ratnagiri, also in Maharashtra. The green signal was given without adhering to the stipulated environmental norms and statues.
The other Green Minister
The appointment of present Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, was done
with the sole intention of toning down the heat generated by her predecessor.
Even after a year in the office, most people can not recall as to who heads the
MoEF. Once the vocal spokesperson of Congress Party, Mrs Natarajan is rarely
articulate enough to address the serious problems afflicting the ministry.
But she is doing her job silently, approving those projects, which were
rejected by Forest Advisory Committee. Recently she decided to withhold the
publication of the report of Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Madhav
Gadgil. When the Right to Information application forced her Ministry to put
this in public domain, she took the issue to Delhi High Court, defending her
decision to withhold the report that it would adversely affect ‘the scientific
and economic interest of the state’!
The Delhi High Court categorically dismissed the case and ordered to put the
report in public domain. This episode reveals the secretive nature of the
Ministry, lacking transparency at every level.
Ritwick Dutta, a Delhi based Lawyer fighting on environmental issues points
out, “Going by the track record of one year, Jayanthi Natrarajan is truly a
‘Green Minister’. She has ensured that a green signal is given to every single
ecologically destructive project in the country. As it is evident, she is
unlikely to lose her ‘green’ tag in the Ministry.”
The National Green Tribunal has to function without proper infrastructure and the government is scuttling it through meagre financial allocation. Obviously, this indicates the parochial mindset of our rulers who are least interested in delivering the environmental justice to the common people.
The only saving grace of this government is the functioning of the National
Green Tribunal (NGT). It is a judicial and technical body expected to deliver
environmental justice to those citizens and communities who are adversely
affected due to the arbitrary decisions of the MoEF and the overall lack of
compliance of the environmental laws. In its functioning for the past eight
months, it has delivered record 76 judgments from across the country. It has
shown ‘red signal’ to the green clearances granted by MoEF, especially the
controversial POSCO project.
Nevertheless, alarmed by these anti government judgments of NGT, the central
government is trying to scuttle the functioning of this new institution. The NGT
has to function without proper infrastructure and the government is scuttling it
through meagre financial allocation. Obviously, this indicates the parochial
mindset of our rulers who are least interested in delivering the environmental
justice to the common people.
These ground truths of environmental governance prove that the eight years
old UPA regime has failed to protect the interests of the communities that
depend on forests and natural resources. The natural resources like soil, seed,
water and land are for sale. The corporate interests have gained control over
natural resources siphoning off the profits form nature’s capital.
The implementation of the Nuclear Liability bill and the passing of the
Biotechnology Regulatory Act will be the last nails on the country’s energy and
food security. It seems the agenda of the UPA II is to precisely achieve this
dubious goal in the remaining tenure.
The precious natural resources of our country are not only depleting, but the
rivers are getting more polluted and the soil is being poisoned. The mounting
waste form cities and toxic materials are threatening the life support systems.
The nation needs some drastic actions to halt this process of degradation.
The Green Ministry and the people who are in charge of the current government
have failed to provide succour to the communities as well as to the environment
which is under seize.