Civil society up in arms against Veerappa Moily over reckless green clearances

Vishwa Mohan, TNN Feb 3, 2014, 07.29PM IST

NEW DELHI: Backed by villagers and displaced people from different states, the civil society groups – comprising members of 200 NGOs from across the country – on Monday slammed environment and forest minister M Veerappa Moily for ignoring environmental and social concerns while granting speedy clearance to mining and infrastructure projects.

Alleging that the recent clearances point to “high corruption”, the groups wrote to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, demanding immediate rollback of hasty environment and forest clearances.

They also said the recent environmental and forest clearances of over 70 projects worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore had sent a clear signal that “environmental protection and people’s livelihoods are to be ignored in order to project an industry-friendly image of the government”.

Articulating concerns of the groups, Shailesh Gandhi – former information commissioner in the Central Information Commission – said, “The recent clearing spree by Moily was done with lack of transparency and accountability. It points to high corruption and complete neglect of our future generations by the UPA government”.

Gandhi, flanked by other RTI activists including Shekhar Singh, Ashish Kothari and Vimal Bhai, said, “The ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) must suo motto make available to the public complete files including all the file noting in this matter so that citizens may realize the reasons for this apparent change of gear”.

Members of civil society, including Greenpeace India, demanded that ahead of the 2014 general elections the government should publicly affirm that the primary mandate of the environment ministry is not to grant clearances and subvert existing legislation, but to protect the environment for public interest.

Shekhar Singh said, “If the trends (reckless green clearances) are not halted and reversed soon, we face an ecological crisis that will make most of the other gains irrelevant”.

The groups’ letter to the Prime Minister even stated that the recent clearance by Moily is “sending out clear signals that the UPA government is going all out to appease corporate India”.

They pointed out that the minister’s actions over the last month have undermined the very mandate of the environment ministry, whose performance must be judged on how it protects the environment, and not on the number and speed of clearances it gives for India Inc’s big ticket projects.

Addressing a joint press conference, they said that the government’s pretence at being pro-poor and pro-rights has come to an end.

“The political gains that helped the UPA in 2009 through its championing of the FRA, NREGA, Right to Information Act etc will be absent in 2014 due to the manner in which a powerful section of the government has actively undermined these key legislations to benefit a section of industry, they said.

They, however, emphasized, “This is of course not to say that other mainstream parties will be any better; the BJP’s record in Gujarat, for instance, is an ecological disaster”.