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Jairam ministry’s new record: 40 clearances in 3 hours

 


By Meenal Dubey

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s mea culpa on bending the rules for clearing certain mega-projects has been well reported. Less talked about has been his ministry’s assembly-line approach to clearances by the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), a statutory body for assessing the impact of projects in wildlife habitats.

At a recent meeting of the NBWL on 25 April, the energetic ministry got as many as 40 projects cleared in as little as three hours. The rush has left some members of the board gasping and fuming, since most of them got just 24-72 hours to study project proposals running into hundreds of pages.

“The additional agenda items were handed to members on the night of Friday, 22 April, giving us not even a single working day before the meeting, with no time to review and assess the items for an informed decision-making process,” said NBWL member Koustubh Sharma of Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore.

Too much information given in too little time means almost nobody could apply his or her mind to any issue. Given that the board has 39 members, the only way 40 projects could have been cleared in three hours was by not discussing anything of much importance.

The NBWL is chaired by Ramesh and its members include serving officials of the environment ministry and members of civil society, including various NGOs. The meeting is held at the capital’s Paryavaran Bhawan. The main purpose of this board is to give expert opinion on the impact on wildlife caused by projects proposed inside India’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and within a 10-km radius. The board’s opinions are binding on the government.


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