Modi Govt Weakening Environment Laws, Ministry From Day 1: Jairam Ramesh
The Coastal Regulation Zone Rules, 2011 have undergone a major change and this will change the face of our coastal areas only to benefit real-estate developers, he said.
New Delhi, Nov 19 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite claiming to be a champion of environment protection, has no empathy for ecological balance and his government is doing everything to weaken environment laws, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh alleged Monday.
He also said there is no comparison between Modi and former prime minister Indira Gandhi, who, he added, would never have taken a “tughlaqi” decision like demonetisation.
On Gandhi’s 101st birth anniversary, Ramesh said it is true that after 30 years someone has got a clear majority like Gandhi had and Modi has full control over the BJP party.
“Indira ji was a different person. There is no comparison between Modi and Gandhi. She would have never taken a ‘tughlaqi’ decision like noteban,” he said.
Modi in a sudden but controversial decision on November 8, 2016 announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes in circulation then would cease to have value with immediate effect.
The government has said the move helped increase the tax base over the two years since and formalised the economy. The opposition has raised doubts over its claims.
Ramesh, a former environment minister during the Congress-led UPA dispensation, said Modi presents himself as a “great champion” of the environment at global forums and even received an award from the UN Environment Programme, but his domestic track record tells a different story.
“The Modi government since day-1 of its assuming power in 2014 decided to change and weaken the environment protection laws in the country. The Environment Ministry has been weakened,” he said.
“Most of his government’s actions actually are severely detrimental to ecological balance. The Environment Minister now judges its mandate as speedy clearance of projects and not as the protection of the country’s natural resources. In the name of ease of doing business, environmental laws, regulations, rules and institutions are being systematically emasculated,” he said.
The Congress leader said Modi had explained to children that climate change was nothing more than people responding differently to the climate as they aged.
“In a patronizing summation of his homespun wisdom he concluded ‘the climate doesn’t change, you change!’. The children, and the nation were left stunned, while the PM still basking in the warmth of his electoral (success) moved on,” he said.
The Congress leader was referring to a programme on Teachers’ Day in 2014 during which Modi interacted with students and took questions, including on climate change.
Ramesh alleged that in its single-minded pursuit of ever-increasing GDP growth, the Modi government is putting the country’s precious bio-diversity at risk, putting the country’s wonderfully variegated natural resources at risk.
Citing examples of weakening laws, he said the settlement of ownership rights of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers enshrined in the Forest Rights Act of 2006 is no longer a pre-requisite for environmental and forest clearances of projects.
The Coastal Regulation Zone Rules, 2011 have undergone a major change and this will change the face of our coastal areas only to benefit real-estate developers, as approvals for diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes regulated by the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 are being facilitated without appropriate due diligence and doors are being opened for the privatization of forests, Ramesh said.
The former minister said the very idea of minimum environmental flow in rivers such as the Ganges and its tributaries has been questioned and once again construction of large dams is back on the agenda.
“Nirmal (clean) Ganga will just not be possible without Aviral (uninterrupted flow) Ganga. Interlinking of rivers, which will have devastating environmental impact, is being pushed, with the Ken-Betwa link in Madhya Pradesh almost ready to go. This will destroy the Panna tiger reserve,” he said.
The Congress leader felt India cannot afford the “grow now, pay later” model being advocated by the prime minister and his colleagues which says “lets have two-three decades of a single-minded pursuit of economic growth and let’s worry about its environmental impact and consequences thereafter”.
“Modi has revealed his true colours and shown that, contrary to the impression he seeks to create internationally, he is dangerous not just to democracy but to ecology as well,” he said.