Dams, Rivers & People

Dams, Rivers & People – February – March 2014, Vol 12, Issue 1-2

The February – March 2014 edition of SANDRP’s magazine ‘Dams, River and People’ is now available online. This is the 1st-2nd issue of magazine in its 12th volume.  The contents magazine is mentioned in the list below. This edition of the magazine covers varied but very significant issues related with dams, rivers and environment in India. This issues brings together detailed reports on a river protection rally in Western Ghats, blatant violation of environmental laws for construction Yettinahole Diversion Project in Karnataka, impacts of hailstorm on Maharashtra farmers and state’s ‘Inaction’ plan on climate change, a reality check on Narmada Kshipra pipeline project in Madhya Pradesh and a detailed critique of cumulative impact assessment study of Siang river basin in Arunachal Pradesh. The magazine in pdf format is available here — https://sandrp.in/DRP_Feb_Mar_2014.pdf. Several of the articles are also available in SANDRP’s blog and they can be viewed just by clicking on the name in the list. Enjoy reading.

cover page_drp_feb_mar_2014

 

Contents

Page No
International Day of Action for Rivers: Shalmala River Protection Rally 1
Examplary Fraud in environmental governance! Sonthi LIS in Karnataka 4
Veerappa Moily supports foundation stone laying of Yettinahole Diversion Project 7
Maharashtra farmers face impacts of hailstorms and State’s ‘Inaction’ Plan on Climate Change 9
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki; ab kyo bhar lau pipe-link se ye mataki…. 13
Chinki Major Irrigation Project on Narmada 21
Cumulative Impact Assessment of Siang Basin in Arunachal Pradesh 24
New Publication from SANDRP: Report on Unjustified Dams for Mumbai Metro Region 32

 

Dams

Election manifestos of BJP, Congress and AAP: Comparative reading on Environment and natural resource management

Now that the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has made its manifesto for the 2014 Parliamentary elections in India public on April 7, 2014, we are in a position to make a comparative reading of manifestoes of three most prominent parties in fray at national level, namely the BJP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). While manifestos are largely ritualistic exercises, they are also the most important documents that declare the intentions of the political outfits, besides the other statements of the party leaders and track records of the parties and their leaders. These documents need to be read both in terms of the promises that they make as also the roadmaps that the parties provide to achieve the promises.

Overall impression In that respect, the overall impression that BJP manifesto (let us begin with a comment on BJP manifesto since all the opinion polls are giving the party an edge over others, though it is well known that opinion polls are largely doctored exercises that have proved wrong so many times) gives is one of an arrogance: both in terms of the content and the timing of the document. The BJP manifesto reads more like a laundry list of feel good factors, without any roadmap as to how the party hopes to achieve the listed objectives. The fact that the party came out with manifesto even as the voting in first phase of the elections was already underway, signals that it is not bothered to tell people why they should vote for them. There is little in the track record of the party in the states it is in power for over a decade, like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, to show that it is serious on these issues in these states.

Congress manifesto, also of 52 pages like that of the BJP manifesto, provides much more details about the specific issues they list, but it is not written in particularly imaginative style, nor is it making any attempt at taking care of the negativity that has been generated around its performance over the last decade. In that sense, Congress’s manifesto makes for somewhat bureaucratic and boring reading. It also lacks in providing the big picture and a big vision.

The AAP manifesto at 28 pages is more interesting as it is not written as a marketing product pamphlet. It starts with the section on Jan Lokapal, their main plank and tries to answer why people should vote for AAP. The major highlight of the whole manifesto is that the party wants to give Gram Sabhas and mohalla sabhas a decisive say in all matters at their respective levels and in overall governance. This is a major departure from other two manifestos, besides their reliance on tackling corruption & Crony Capitalism with more seriousness and convincingly than other two parties. However, while it is more elaborate than the BJP and Cong manifestos in describing how the party seeks to change the governance in India, it seems less comprehensive. Another lacuna of the AAP manifesto’s PDF file is that it is not searchable, unlike the other two manifestos.

Having taken an overall view, let us look at some specific issues that we are concerned about.

Natural Resource Management The BJP manifesto seems to have poor understanding of the scope of ‘Natural Resources’. The manifesto lists only coal, minerals and spectrum among natural resources. The most important natural resources of land, forests, rivers, water sources and biodiversity are not even listed. It seems the party is only interested in directly marketable (as in equity market) commodities that their industry friends are interested in. Interestingly, the section starts with Gandhi’s famous quote on need vs greed, but there is no reflection of this principle in what is said here.

The Congress manifesto talks about “establishment   of a clearly defined policy for fair, transparent equitable and time bound development of natural resources. The Indian National Congress will immediately put in place a Special Purpose Vehicle for this.”  The fact that this comes in industries section does not sound very confidence inspiring.

The AAP has a section on natural resources that does include water and forests among natural resources along with major minerals and provides Gram Sabha pivotal role, without whose consent, decisions about exploitation of such major natural resources cannot be taken. The ownership of the minor natural resources remains with the gram sabhas in AAP scheme of things.

Environmental governance The BJP section on this issue has interesting heading: “Flora, Fauna and Environment – Safeguarding Our Tomorrow”. However, the section or the rest of the document does not tell us anything how they are going to improve environment governance in India or do they even see this need. On the contrary, by stating in Industry section that it intends to “Frame the environment laws in a manner that provides no scope for confusion and will lead to speedy clearance of proposals without delay” and talking about single window and speedy clearance elsewhere, it is clear what is their understanding is and where they intend to go. This can only be disastrous for India’s environment and environmental governance.

The Congress Manifesto claimed that it intends to set up National Environment Appraisal and Monitoring Authority. However, as Supreme Court judges promptly remarked, this is actually the order of the Supreme Court and Congress had no business of putting it on their manifesto. Moreover, Congress lacks credibility on this, since, when Jairam Ramesh, as environment minister proposed this, he was actually removed and his successor did nothing to implement this. Moreover, the environment ministry under UPA II actually filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that it is not possible to set up such an authority with any teeth. The appointment of Union Oil Minister Veerappa Moily as Environment Minister, forgetting about conflict of interest and the actions that Moily as been taking subsequently including pushing the disastrous Yettinahole Diversion Project to benefit his parliamentary constituency in Karnataka takes away any credibility the party may have had. It is true that National Green Tribunal is the only major contribution of UPA on this issue, but that too is largely due to Mr Ramesh as his successor ministers tried their best to scuttle the functioning of NGT.

The AAP manifesto talks about reforming “Ministry of Environment and Forests and its agencies so that they can empower and facilitate Gram Sabhas to be effective custodians and managers of their local natural resources.” This is certainly welcome. However, there are insufficient details as to how this will be achieved. Their clubbing of Ecology and Economy in one section sounds promising at one level, again how this will be implemented without allowing ecology to be subservient to economic interests is not described.

Rivers It is well known that Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) is high on agenda of BJP and Mr Modi. However, for some unclear reasons, they have played down ILR, saying, “Inter-linking of rivers based on feasibility.” Possibly they do not want to raise the hackles prematurely. However, the Narmada Kshipra link that was recently inaugurated and the track record of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere seems to suggest that BJP state governments are working at cross purposes with the national ILR plan.

The BJP manifesto says, “BJP commits to ensure the cleanliness, purity and uninterrupted flow of the Ganga on priority”, but this is not helpful, since no roadmap is given how this will be achieved. Moreover, this intentionally ignores the three biggest threats that the Ganga and other rivers face: The dams & hydropower projects, the urban & industrial pollution & encroachment. The BJP manifesto is silent on all these three threats to the river. Even on the issue of River Pollution, the only thing the party manifesto condescends to inform the readers is that “a massive ‘Clean Rivers Programme’ will be launched across the country driven by people’s participation.” No details again. Even on the issue of seemingly unsolvable urban water pollution, the only solution party can offer is more sewage treatment plants, choosing to ignore that the existing STPs are non functional most of the places. Interestingly, BJP manifesto has a section on North East India (unlike the other two manifestos) and mentions the flood problem of Assam and promises tackling the river, but without any details as to how.

It is worth noting in this context that when BJP’s PM candidate Mr Modi visited North East India in general and Arunachal Pradesh in particular he did not mention ILR or large hydropower projects in that region, knowing that local sentiments are totally against them. However, Mr Modi, while proposing his national energy plan in Madhya Pradesh in March 2014, said that North East India is heaven for hydropower projects! The manifesto again is expectedly silent on this issue!

The Congress manifesto says that “The National Ganga River Basin Authority has begun the ambitious task of cleaning the Ganga River. We  will use similar models of creating empowered, well-funded agencies to clean other major rivers in the country”. Now this sounds mindless and incredible! NGRBA, five years after it was notified, has been the most ineffective, non transparent institution that has achieved no change in the state of the river. How can such an institution be used as a model for other rivers? The authors of the Congress manifesto seem completely ill informed on this score.

The AAP manifesto seems to have nothing on Rivers: a major omission of the manifesto.

Water The BJP manifesto promises piped water supply to all households! Irrespective of if all households need it or not or is it feasible or appropriate or not. The BJP manifesto claims that there will be 50% gap between demand and supply of water in India by 2050. This is totally off the mark, according to Govt of India’s National Commission for Integrated Water Resources Development, country’s water requirement will match the available resources in 2050, even considering high growth trajectory, we are going far below that level currently. The BJP manifesto writers seem to have no clue about the realities, or they are just trying to push greater market for water companies. There is one promise in this regard that is welcome: “We will promote decentralized, demand-driven, community-managed water resource management, water supply and environmental sanitation.” However, how they will promote this is not given. Moreover, this promise remains unconvincing considering they also talk about river linking.

The Congress manifesto talks about adding 1 crore ha in gross irrigated area in 12th Plan, two years of which are already over! It clearly looks impossible, but more importantly, it does not say how they will achieve it. Both Congress and BJP manifestoes talk about water conserving irrigation techniques, which is actually seems to be scam ridden and affected by crony capitalism. Congress manifesto also talks about increasing irrigation efficiency and water use efficiency in general, but without any roadmap. More worryingly, the UPA government has pushed the proposal to allow Jain Irrigation (the biggest private supplied of drop and sprinkler systems) to set up the National Bureau of Water Efficiency! Crony capitalism?

The AAP manifesto talks about giving priority to watershed development to reduce pressure on big irrigation projects, but fails to take an informed and prudent stand on performance of big irrigation projects. This is certainly a major let down of AAP manifesto.

Urban Water Issues There is nothing noteworthy in BJP manifesto in this regard, even as it plans to prioritise Urban Development. It has no clue about how to tackle Urban Wastewater as it only talks about more STPs when existing STPs are not working, including in Modi’s Gujarat.

The Congress manifesto talks about continuing the problematic Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission under which over Rs 70000/- crores have been spent, mostly on Urban water issues, without any attempt at democratic governance, local water options, demand side  management or recycle and reuse of treated sewage. This is creating havoc on surrounding areas with displacement of tribals, destruction of forests and pushing unjustifiable dams. But it seems Congress is least bothered about it. The problem is so acute that some 18000 people in Thane to be displaced by Kalu dam meant for Mumbai have decided to boycott the polls, since the dam is being taken up without any clearances and when all the gram sabhas have passed resolutions against it. The writing is clearly on the walls for the Congress.

The only positive aspect in this regard in AAP manifesto is the proposed empowerment of Mohalla Sabhas. Let us hope they are able to show how this will work.

Climate Change It is interesting to see that Climate Change is an issue recognised by BJP and Congress manifestos, but what they say there is disappointing in both cases. BJP manifesto talks about launching a National Mission on Himalayan Ecosystem, but there is already one existing, which is supposed to be under implementation for some years, but no one seems to know what it is doing! BJP Manifesto also talks about program devised to arrest melting of Himalayan glaciers, sounds strange, since no such program is known.

The Congress manifesto promises of continued implementation of National Action Plan on Climate Change when the plan and its mission stand discredited, along with the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. These are the things that make the Congress manifesto sound so bureaucratic.

AAP manifesto seems silent on climate change.

Renewable Energy It is welcome to note that BJP manifesto talks about promoting small hydro with local support and without displacement. However, it is not welcome that there is no mention of big hydro and big dams. Their promise to push infrastructure development in Arunachal Pradesh without any mention of participatory decision making with the local communities is likely to raise suspicion that this is for pushing big hydro there. The manifesto is also silent about promoting household level solar power projects.

The Congress manifesto is also silent on promoting household level solar power projects. It talks about giving new  thrust to  small hydro under new and renewable energy sources, but these projects need social and environmental impact assessment, the manifesto is silent on this.

The AAP manifesto is the only one that does talk about pushing decentralized renewable energy plants, which is welcome.

Tribal Development The scary part in BJP manifesto in this regard is that tribal development in India will be pushed on the lines of what has been achieved in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh! If this is the tribal development model for tribals in other areas, tribals all over India need to be very wary of this party.

The Congress manifesto says: “We will ensure the stringent implementation of PESA, 1996 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006 to ensure that Scheduled Tribes are empowered and brought into the mainstream.” Sounds good, but the trouble is what has Congress governments both at centre and states done? Nothing about PESA and very little to implement FRA in letter and spirit.

In that respect AAP manifesto does make such commitment and this is most welcome. This is possibly the only useful thing for tribals among all three manifestos, in addition to the fact that AAP provides separate section for Tribals, for Scheduled castes and also for Valmikis, unlike the BJP and Congress manifestos basically clubbing all under one head.

In conclusion It is apt that the last page of the BJP manifesto says “Time for Modi” and not for BJP! The Congress manifesto on last page shows Rahul Gandhi sitting with urban youth. This appeal will have limited catchment. The last page of AAP manifesto asks voters in Hindi to vote for the honest party.

Let us hope the voters everywhere will do that.

Himanshu Thakkar, ht.sandrp@gmail.com

BJPcongressaap

This blog also hosted at: http://www.write2kill.in/himanshu-thakkar/election-manifestos-of-bjp-congress-and-aap-comparative-reading-on-environment.html

and at: http://indiatogether.org/comparing-manifestos-of-national-parties-environment.

END NOTES:

1. BJP Manifesto: http://www.bjp.org/images/pdf_2014/full_manifesto_english_07.04.2014.pdf

2. Congress Manifesto: http://inc.in/media/pdf/English_Manifesto_for_Web.pdf

3. AAP manifesto: https://app.box.com/s/q9k6f7e21265olkpxrzq

4. Some articles on Congress, AAP manifestos: http://www.thethirdpole.net/new-indian-party-integrates-economy-and-ecology-in-manifesto/,

http://www.thethirdpole.net/indias-congress-party-releases-poll-manifesto-green-promises-remain-unfulfilled/,

http://www.thethirdpole.net/environmentalists-attack-catch-all-bjp-manifesto/,

http://www.thethirdpole.net/little-space-for-environment-in-indian-elections/

5. A related article: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/why-is-media-missing-the-real-gujarat-story-gujarat-satya-samachar/

6. http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/elections-manifesto-2014-water-policy

7. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/22/water-decide-indian-elections-aam-admi

8. Great to see hydropower projects become election issue in Sikkim: http://www.firstpost.com/politics/in-sikkim-environmental-issue-get-top-priority-1470713.html

9. http://prernabindra.com/2014/04/09/little-space-for-conservation-in-the-election-manifestos/

10. EPW editorial: “The absence of any engagement with climate change in the planet’s biggest elections is shocking” http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/2014_49/15/King_Canutes_Land.pdf

11. Quotes SANDRP http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/politics/green-agenda-gets-the-grand-shove/article5897143.ece?homepage=true

12. http://indiatogether.org/comparison-of-congress-bjp-aap-manifestos-government

Dams, Rivers & People

Dams, Rivers & People – December 2013-January 2014, Vol 11, Issue 11-12

The December 2013 – January 2014 edition of SANDRP’s magazine ‘Dams, River and People’ is now available online. This is the 11-12th issue of magazine in its 11th volume.  The contents magazine are mentioned in the list below. Packed with information on water, rivers, dams and environment, this issue covers matters at home in India as well in Bhutan, Nepal, Spain, Vietnam, United States of America and water dispute between India and Pakistan. The  magazine in pdf format is available here — https://sandrp.in/DRP_Dec_2013_Jan_2014.pdf. Several of the articles are also available in SANDRP’s blog and they can be viewed just by clicking on the name in the list. Enjoy reading.

DRP_issue_11_12_cover0001

Contents

Page No
Is Environment just a political football for the NDA and UPA?   1
Muck dumping by damaged Vishnuprayag HEP in River 3
Possible explanation for Seti River flood of Nepal in May 2012 4
Visit to Fish ladder at Kurichu HEP in Bhutan 9
Court Order on India-Pak Kishanganga dispute on E-flows 14
Water Sector Review for India for 2013 18
Water Sector Review for North East India for 2013 20
Water Sector Review for Maharashtra for 2013 23
Notice to GVK project over damage to Uttarakhand town 28
Illegal Public Hearing of Lower Siang HEP Called Off 29
US Congress Opposes Financial Support for Large Dams 30
Dam Removal & Cancellations in Vietnam, Spain and US 31
Short film on Uttarakhand disaster: Flood Ravage and the Dams 32
Ministry of Environment and Forests · Western Ghats

Open Letter to Dr. Veerappa Moily as he supports foundation stone laying of Yettinahole Diversion Project

 January 30, 2014

To,

Dr. M. Veerappa Moily

Union Minister of Environment and Forests

Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road,

New Delhi 110 003

vmoily@kar.nic.in

Subject: Issues about the laying of Yettinahole Diversion Project’s foundation Stone

Respected Dr. Moily,

We learnt about your announcement and support for laying the foundation stone of the controversial Yettinahole Diversion Project on January 31, 2014 in your parliamentary constituency of Chikkaballapur, from several media reports[i]. The project has not conducted any impact assessment study and does not have any statutory clearance from your ministry. This is in complete violation of several norms and laws and is shocking, to say the least.

Dr. Moily, our assessments based on local interactions, site visits, study of the Project report (the DPR for the project is still not ready) indicate that the project involves eight dams inside the Western Ghats, deforestation of more than 100 ha of forests inside the Western Ghats eco-sensitive region, water diversion without any ecological studies, 370 MW of power for pumping, a canal of 250 kms length, 1200 ha submergence near Devaranyadurga including submergence of 2 villages and 600 ha forest land. [ii]

The foundation stone laying ceremony is supposed to take place on the 31st January 2014 at Muddenahalli, Chikkaballapur, which also happens to be your current constituency.  It is clear why you chose Chikkaballapur to lay the foundation stone, and not Sakaleshpur, from where the water will be diverted, or Dakshin Kannada, which will face most of the impacts of the project. In Sakaleshpur and entire Dakshin Kannada, (which was your constituency in the past) there is a huge and mounting opposition to Yettinahole Diversion and also to your decision.

Just in the last two weeks, there have been attempts to a stop train in protest, numerous dharnas, hunger strikes, letters in opposition and a Satyagraha in Netravathi River to oppose this project.[iii]

Rail Roko prtest against Yettinahole Diversion Photo: Daiji World
Rail Roko protest against Yettinahole Diversion Photo: Daiji World

Despite this growing discontent, you, as an MP from Chikkaballapur and the Union Environment Minister, or the Karnataka Government did not feel the need to initiate a dialogue with the people of this region. Has the government learnt no lessons from Delhi as to what happens when local voices are ignored and unheeded?

Protest in Hassan (in addition to Dakshin Kannada) against Yettinahole Diversion Photo: The Hindu
Protest in Hassan (in addition to Dakshin Kannada) against Yettinahole Diversion. Photo: The Hindu

Why has the Karnataka Government or the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, which you now head, not thought it necessary to assess and address the serious ecological impacts of this project? Why have you supported the fraudulent tactics of this project to escape environmental clearance?  Our letter to the Ministry in his regard dated 10 Sept 2013, which was endorsed by several experts remains unanswered till date[iv].

As the  Minister of Environment and Forests, it is your duty to see that projects with significant impacts on ecology and dependent communities are assessed. Why are you escaping that duty?

Why is the Karnataka Government and the MoEF, under you leadership, hiding behind weak technical clauses of the EIA Notification 2006 to claim that the project does not qualify for Environment appraisal?

In fact the EIA Notification 2006 requires that there is thorough appraisal of the project. We have sent you a letter in this regard again on the 28th of January 2014, with scanned pages from the project report proving  this.

How can you support foundation stone laying ceremony when RTI reveals that Forest Department has not even assessed the forest area affected by this project?

How can a Minister of Environment and Forests of India indulge in an illegal act of formal initiation of a project that does not have environmental or forest clearances?

The project will come to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, headed by you, for Forest Clearances. But you have supported the foundation stone for this project already, giving a signal that forest clearance is a foregone conclusion.

If this is not conflict of interest, what is?

And all this for 2.8 TMC drinking water for Kolar and Chikkaballpur Districts. Has the government conducted any studies to prove that project with Rs 100 Billion cost and severe environmental impacts is the least-cost option to get drinking water for Kolar and Chikkaballapur in whose name the project is being pushed?

Dr. Moily, as the Union Environment Minister, it is you duty to address these questions before you support the foundation stone laying of Yettinahole Diversion Project.

Not doing so is in violation of environmental norms and legal stipulations.

We are looking forward to getting a point-wise response from you.

Sincerely,

Parineeta Dandekar, Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP, Pune and Delhi

Dr. T. V. Ramchandra, Energy and Wetlands Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Karnataka 

Panduranga Hegde,Parisara Samrakshana Samithi, Appiko Movemenr, Sirsi, Karnataka

Dr. Shrinivas Badigere, Water and Irrigation Expert, Bangalore, Karnataka

Dr. Latha Anantha, River Research Center, Kerala

Dr. Rajeev Raghavan, South Asia Co-Chair, IUCN SSC/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist Group
Member, IUCN SSC Red List Committee 

Debi Goenka on behalf of Conservation Action Trust, Mumbai

Shankar Sharma, Power Policy Analyst, Tirthahalli, Karnataka

R. Sreedhar, Managing Trustee, Environics Trust and Chairpserson, Mines , Minerals and People

Vidyadhar Atkore, Fisheries Researcher, Bangalore, Karnataka

Neethi Mahesh, Mahseer Conservancy, Karnataka

Dr. Ashok Kundapur, Udupi, Karnataka

Anand Krishnamurthy, Bangalore, Karnataka

Dr. Nitya Ghotge, Anthra, Pune

Ms. Nyla Coelho on behalf of  Paryavarni, Belgaum, Karnataka

Pratim Roy on behalf of Keystone Foundation, Kotagiri, Tamilnadu

Dr. Archana Godbole, Jayant Sarnaik, AERF, Pune

Dr. K. Amitha Bachan, Western Ghats Hornbill Foundation

Vijay Sambare, Lok Panchayat, Sangamner, Maharashtra

Dr. Bhaskar Acharya, Independent Researcher, Bangalore

Ramesh Gauns, Environmental Activist, Goa

Ramaswamy Selvam for Tamilnadu organic farmers federation, Arachalur,Erode.

Headwaters of Netravathi and Gundia threatened by Yettinahole Diversion Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP
Headwaters of Netravathi and Gundia threatened by Yettinahole Diversion Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP
Ministry of Environment and Forests

Open Letter to UPA Leadership: Please Remove Mr. Moily from Paryavaran Bhawan

OPEN LETTER TO UPA LEADERSHIP:

Do you know how much Aam people depends on Environment?

Do you understand what is conflict of interest?

Do you at all get the message from Aam people?

Please immediately remove Moily from MoEF if you do!

Dear Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Mr Rahul Gandhi,

On December 21, 2013, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said at a FICCI meeting  (see the video of this clip uploaded by Indian National Congress: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URnr8OKTygg),  “Many of you expressed your frustrations with environmental clearances that they are delaying projects unduly. There is excessive pic 1administrative and judicial discretion. The loopholes are so big that you can drive a truck through some of them. Environmental and social damage must be avoided, but decisions must also be transparent, timely and fair.”

Mr Rahul Gandhi, you are right. The loopholes are so big in our environmental regulations that one can drive a truck through some of them. However, this is a grand understatement. The loopholes in our environmental regulations are in fact so big that even whole dams, mines, mountains and rivers can be driven through them. You are right that decisions must be transparent, timely and fair. Have you had a look at the official website of environmental clearances (http://environmentclearance.nic.in/) or forest clearances (http://forestsclearance.nic.in/) or CDM clearances (http://www.cdmindia.gov.in/), all under Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (http://envfor.nic.in/)? Please do go through the website and let us know if you manage to get the copy of the latest (timely) clearances (transparency) or understand how the decisions have been arrived at (fair decisions). Your statements, that too at the meeting of industrialists’ vested interest lobby like FICCI, only shows, sir, that you have been so poorly informed about the functioning of MoEF, to put it most charitably.

On the same day of Mr Gandhi’s statement, the Union Minister of State of Environment and Forests (Independent Charge) Mrs Jayanthi Natarajan resigned and the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh handed over the charge of the Environment and Forests portfolio to Union Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily. From day one in office at Paryavarahan Bhawan, Mr Veerappa Moily has earnestly started to dismantle whatever little and poor environmental regulation exists in this country. This is disastrous for the people and future of India and also for the future of UPA.

The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said at his press conference on Jan 3, 2014 (http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/pm-rules-out-third-term-says-he-will-hand-over-baton/303780?pfrom=home-topstories), “There were bottlenecks in terms of timely clearances of the projects from the point of view of environmental-forests clearances.” Mr Prime Minister, this only shows how ill-informed you are (again to put it most charitably) or you choose to be.   To give you just one instance, the Expert Appraisal Committee appointed by your government on River Valley and Hydropower projects have not rejected environment clearance a single project in last seven years (for details see: https://sandrp.in/env_governance/TOR_and_EC_Clearance_status_all_India_Overview_Feb2013.pdf). Even when all of the members of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife unanimously rejected Wildlife Clearance to Lower Demwe Dam in Arunachal Pradesh for its disastrous impacts on communities and ecosystems in downstream Assam, Jayanti Natarajan, as the chairperson of the Committee, sanctioned it. On Forest clearance also the story is almost same. pic 2 Here in rare event when the statutory Forest Advisory Committee (twice) rejected forest clearance for the 300 MW Alaknanda Badrinath Hydropower project, your minister Mrs Natarajan overturned the FAC decision and gave clearance (it should be clear that we are not writing this in defense of Mrs Natarajan’s tenure at MoEF). In another instance, when FAC said no to Kalu Dam near Mumbai in April 2012, a more pliable FAC was put in place and your party Chief Minister from Maharashtra wrote to FAC to clear it and lo and behold, in April 2013 it was cleared! Mr Prime Minister sir, you yourself have gone ahead and laid foundation stone for the 3000 MW Dibang Hydropower Project in Arunachal Pradesh on January 31, 2008, when the project did not have statutory environment and forest clearances, the project still does not have them, because the basic studies have still not been done. All this only shows how off the mark your statements are.

As we wrote in our blog (https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/veerappa-moily-as-environment-minister-has-the-upa-leadership-learnt-no-lessons-from-aap-experience/) on December 21, 2013, the appointment of Mr Veerappa Moily is most shocking and bizarre, showing that UPA leadership  do not seem to appreciate or understand the extent to which poor people of this country depend on environmental resources including forests, rivers, hills and biodiversity. You all also do not seem to understand the issue of conflict of interest: How can Petroleum minister be given the charge of environment and forests?

The petition on this issue (see: http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/government-of-india-the-same-minister-for-oil-and-environment-how-is-that-reasonable) has by now been signed by close to 700 people and more people continue to endorse it, I am writing this on behalf of all of them.

Mr Gandhi, while we agree that the decisions need to be transparent and fair, but they also need to be democratic, well-informed and professional, and that means much better Environmental Impact Assessments, people with understanding of environment at the helm of Appraisal Committees and of course, informed participation and consent of the impacted people in the impact assessment and in decision making too, as also credible compliance mechanism in place. That is one of the key messages that we can get from recent events in India, but it seems to be falling on deaf years.

Among other things, this whole episode highlights poor is the understanding of UPA leadership to the signals that Aam people of this country have been sending. You are ignoring these signals at your own peril.

The least we expect you to do is to remove Mr Veerappa Moily from the post of Minister of Environment and Forests and replace him with a credible person immediately. There is of course a lot more you can do if you are really interested in the well being and future of Aam people and environment of this country.

Yours Sincerely,

Himanshu Thakkar

To: pmosb@pmo.nic.in, manmohan@sansad.nic.in, soniagandhi@sansad.nic.in, chairperson@nac.nic.in, office@rahulgandhi.in

Ministry of Environment and Forests

Veerappa Moily as Environment Minister??? Has the UPA leadership learnt no lessons from AAP experience?

In a bizarre turn of events, as Jayanthi Natarajan resigned as Union Minister of State of Environment and Forests (Independent charge), she has been reportedly replaced by Veerappa Moily[i]. He holds Union Oil and Petroleum Ministry currently and will hold Ministry of Environment and Forests Ministry as an additional charge. Firstly there is issue of conflict of interest there, since projects from Oil and Petroleum ministry also come for environment clearances.

This choice of Veerappa Moily as the new Minister of Environment and Forests is shocking, ironical and unacceptable for many reasons. It seems the leadership of Congress and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has learnt no lessons from its Delhi election debacle. Mr. Moily’s appointment as Petroleum Minister in place of Jaipal Reddy was widely criticized as a sop to a specific private sector oil company[ii]. While we do not want to compare Mr. Reddy as Petroleum minister with Ms. Natarajan as Environment minister, Mr. Moily’s appointment as Environment Minister seems to cater to similar lobby for hydropower projects and dams.

Let us look at just a few instances to substantiate this.  

Veerappa Moily laid the foundation stone of 85 MW Mawphu Stage II Hydel Project in Meghalaya in September 2012.[iii] The project is to be developed by NEEPCO (North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited). Shockingly Veerappa Moily laid this foundation stone even when the project did not have any of the statutory clearances from the Environment Ministry! This only indicates his callousness towards issues related to people and environment. The project has applied for 1st stage (Terms of Reference) Clearance only in January 2013 and that too has not been issued so far.

“Moily’s love for Hydels” Even as Hydel Power remains one of the most complex, controversial and problematic sectors with huge impacts on environment, people, downstream impacts, disaster implications, Veerappa Moily has been openly supporting Hydel power projects. He has been reported to have sent a note to the Prime Minister, pushing hydel power and Hydel Power Projects. This has been referred by the media as “Moily’s love for Hydels”.[iv]

Mr. Moily has urged the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister to “Fast Track” Hydel Projects, and specifically seems to favour NEEPCO and NHPC. NHPC already holds several hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh including the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Project which is witnessing possibly the strongest protest in the country from downstream Assam. [v]

In 2011, Veerappa Moily actually wrote to MoEF against expanding boundaries of Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Dakshin Kannada.[vi] He wrote that people from affected regions will lose homes and livelihoods. But the region under expansion includes parts of reserved forests. Environmental groups stressed that the pressure against expansion is not coming from people but from the powerful hydel and timber lobby which is causing serious environmental and social impacts in the region.[vii]

Support for controversial Yettinhole Project Mr Moily is staunchly supporting the very controversial Netravathi Diversion project (which is now labelled as Yettinahole Diversion Project, only to mislead people) for his constituency of Chikkaballapur.[viii] He is even asking people of Dakshin Kannada not to oppose the project (he has lost elections from that area more than once). This project has fraudulently tried to escape environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. It entails 8 dams inside Western Ghats forest regions, affecting protected areas , a dam at Devaranyadurga which will submerge 1200 hectares of land including nearly 700 hecatres of forests and many villages. The proposal will cost minimum Rs. 100 Billion and is economically as well as technically unviable.[ix]

There is little doubt that Mr. Moily is an incorrect, inappropriate and unacceptable choice for the post of Union Minister of Environment and Forests. The UPA government is only committing blunders after blunders in the face of elections. We urge the UPA leadership to immediately change this decision. It would be in their own interest to do that.

parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com , SANDRP

 PS: This Indian Express story seems to corroborate that the change is not for what is stated, but in favour of the Business and against the interests of the Environment and People. UPA will pay dearly for this: http://www.indianexpress.com/…/pm-wakes-up…/1210241/0

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