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Tag: javadekar

Is India selling out its tigers?

In the New York Times, journalist and co-author of Tigers Forever Sharon Guynup asks the question — and lists the reasons why the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’.

But the Modi government’s aggressive focus on development threatens both the cats’ future and the nation’s environment. India is razing forests and flooding them with dams, giving the go-ahead for new mines and pushing rapid industrialization. The 2015 budget cut funding for the environment ministry by 25 percent and support for tiger protection by 15 percent.

Toward that end, the government is moving swiftly and systematically to alter environmental regulations. Last August, a high level government committee was given the impossible task of reviewing the country’s major environmental laws and suggesting overhauls, all within a few months. Most of the committee members lacked environmental expertise, recommendations were not reviewed by independent authorities and most outside input was “invited.”

It is, argues Guynup, a perfect storm. Laws are being changed to permit large-scale deforestation; dams are coming up in job lots that will wipe out large sections of forest land, including reserves; sane voices from the outside, that could warn of the dangers, are being deliberately shut out of the process…

“Maybe I’m exaggerating,” said Ashok Khosla, the first director of India’s Office of Environmental Planning and Coordination, “but it sounds to me as if we have a cliff ahead of us and we have our foot on the accelerator.”

More on these lines here.

“The minister did not respond”

The Hindu reports on a sham “consultation” by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The part that should come as no surprise?:

Koraga tribe member Susheela Koraganad of Udipi is quoted in the citizen’s report as saying that the government refused to provide copies of both the Committee reports in Kannada, which might have helped them understand its recommendations better. Tania Devaiah, Jhatkaa’s online campaigner, said that both Mr. Javadekar and Environment Secretary Ashok Lavasa have not responded to the citizen’s report and the concerns raised by it. The lack of transparency in the consultation process is further exposed by the fact that the MoEF did not respond to a Right to Information query filed by Ms. Devaiah on June 17, seeking details of the ongoing consultation proceedings, despite public authorities being required to respond to RTI queries within one month from the date of receipt of the query.

Par for the course, for probably the most disastrous Minister we’ve ever had in charge of the environment.

Clear and present danger

News item: Supreme Court puts on hold decisions taken by the National Body for Wildlife, reconstituted by — and chaired by — Prime Minister Narendra Modi

News item: In the wake of the SC ruling, Modi decides to reconstitute the NBW as per the statutory requirements he had earlier ignored

News item (This just in): NBW okays 81 development proposals — including nine right in the middle of protected tiger reserves.

News item (This, too, just in): The NBW led by Modi’s Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar cleared at least six projects, three of them in wildlife reserves, before carrying out the mandatory inspections. In other words, the “inspections”, mandated by law and the courts, are now merely a formality.

As PM Narendra Modi said earlier, our tigers, and our environment generally, are in good hands:

Prime Minister, who was presented a report on the status of tigers in India, expressed satisfaction at the reported increase in the country’s tiger population, and said it was an illustration of India’s commitment to respect for nature.

Also:

Prime Minister said the people of India have been the protectors and devotees of nature. He said we need to project this fact properly, so that the world realizes that India cannot be questioned in this regard.

It is, after all, about projection, not reality. Modi understands that. As does Javadekar, who recently instructed his officials to use the right language.

An intra-ministry communication issued on July 16 by Javadekar’s private secretary Vinay Srivastava stated: “Hon’ble minister has desired that henceforth in all communication the word ‘Clearance’ should be replaced by ‘Approval with Adequate Environmental Safeguards’ and the word ‘Diversion’ should be replaced by ‘Reforestation’.”

As the minister — who, to his credit, is a master at the use of language sans intent — said, in words that cannot be improved upon:

“This is all about thinking positive, and using the right expression”

But it doesn’t matter, really, if your heart is in the right place. As for instance:

The proposal for the widening of NH17 passing through Karnala Bird Sanctuary was earlier rejected twice by the NBWL in its 17th and 29th meetings. In both instances, the proposal was opposed due to the availability of an alternative alignment.

However, the standing committee in the 34th meeting concluded that, “widening within the sanctuary will smoothen the traffic and reduce the foul emissions from recurring traffic jams, which are harmful for the birds and other wildlife”.

See? We build broader roads through protected areas so traffic can flow smoothly and the emissions from jammed vehicles don’t give the birds a coughing fit.