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DRP News Bulletin 16 Jan. 2017 (MoEF’s Expert Committee Shows Anti-People, Anti-Environment Biases)

EAC against entertaining ‘anti-development’ representations The expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley and hydel projects of the Union Environment Ministry has decided “not to take any cognizance of such representations” received by its members. In its Dec. 30, 2016 meeting, the committee concluded that once a project proposal reaches the EAC for appraisal, it has crossed the stage of public consultation and “the EAC should not go back in time, and should not reopen it, by entertaining unsubstantiated representations received from the people”. 

The EAC noted that in case of any clarification regarding action taken on such representations under the RTI Act, the EAC prescribed that a standard reply “action has been taken in accordance with the decisions taken in the 1st meeting of the EAC for River Valley and HEP on 30.12.2016” should suffice. “It was also felt that many of the objections raised are repetitive. Many such kind of representations have an anti-development attitude so that the projects are kept on hold or delayed. This has financial implications to the developers in particular and to the nation in general.

The committee emphasized that relevant ministries scrutinised every aspect of a project and proposed it for final appraisal only when all details were in place. If not satisfied that public consultation had been completed properly, the EAC said it could ask the project promoter to do the needful. The committee also made allowance for representations with “new points” and “grave consequences” on which comments from project proponents could be sought. The EAC considered 13 projects in its December 30 meeting and cleared eight of them.

Environmental activists, however, pointed out the impracticality of the contention that representations should be restricted to the 30-day public consultation window. Sripad Dharmadhikari also, in his blog has mentions various reasons to counter the EAC’s suspicious justifications. He also says that the fact that a body which is supposed to represent the environmental perspective displays such an attitude is the biggest critique of the EAC and the environmental clearance process that it is a part of. The newly constituted MOEF’s EAC on River Valley Projects has in their very first meeting shown anti people, anti democratic and anti environment attitude.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 30 May 2016 (Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that Govt see wetlands as wastelands)

Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that govts see wetlands as wastelands  The draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 which replace the existing Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, are up for public comments till June 6, 2016. While wetlands nationwide are threatened by encroachment, pollution, catchment degradation and mindless development, the Narendra Modi government’s draft rules show no indications of acknowledging this threat. The draft rules, environmentalists say, reinforces the stereotype that governments see wetlands as wastelands. The essence of the new rules is to decentralise wetlands management to states. The Centre will have a say only in ‘exceptional cases’ While the 2010 rules gave some role to states, the draft rules gives them all powers. But in the process, the whole conservation process has been weakened. The period for public comments on the draft notification ends by the month. Several organisations, including BHNS, WWF, LIFE, International Rivers, INTACH, YJA & SANDRP have sent, or are in the process of sending, representations to the environment ministry. Among the concerns is that the 2010 rules itself were barely getting implemented. No state has identified a wetland yet, and few have made state-level nodal agencies mandated by the 2010 rules. In an ongoing case before the NGT, it emerged that states had not notified wetlands under the 2010 regulations. This forced the tribunal to demand that states begin to do so in at least 5-10 districts in a time-bound fashion. The Union meanwhile has proposed to substantially change the existing regulations. The new regulations do away with the elaborate list of activities that are prohibited or restricted. It prohibits reclamation of wetlands, conversion to non-wetlands, diversion or impediment of inflows and outflows from the wetland and ‘any activity having or likely to have adverse impact on ecological character of the wetland’. The need for the environmental impact assessment before permitting such activities is to be done away with. The earlier regulations allowed appeals against the decisions of the central wetlands authority with the NGT. This, too, is to be done away with, though aggrieved entities could continue to file cases against violations of these rules. The concerns were also raised during a discussion organized in Jodhpur on May 23 by three NGOs EIA Resource and Response Centre, Libra India and Life on Draft Wetland Rules 2016 issued recently by the environment ministry seeking suggestions and comments.

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