Bengaluru: “We need a Silent Valley type of a movement where the PM got up and said that protection of the environment is more important than the 240 MW of hydel power in Kerala. Indira Gandhi was the first and last PM who walked the talk,” said Jairam Ramesh, former environment minister and Rajya Sabha MP.
At a seminar organised by Actionaid and Environment Support Group Trust, Mr Ramesh said one of the major reasons over the furore over the 2018 National Draft Forest Policy is the issue of inclusion of private players in undertaking afforestation and reforestation in the 40 per cent degraded forest land across the country.
“Paper industry is keen on taking some areas of the forest. The forest can be degraded, but there are people who are dependent on it for their livelihoods. The new draft policy does not address this question,” the former minister added.
No state keen to save Western Ghats
Commenting on the pressure the Western Ghats experiences due to mining, development and eco-tourism projects, Mr Ramesh said, “Not a single state was in the support of either Madhav Gadgil committee report or the Kasturi Rangan Committee report. Even the church organizations in Kerala were against the conservation of Ghats.”
He, however, said that National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been a fiercely independent body, but last year’s Finance Act has emasculated the body. Ramesh said he had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and obtained a stay from Supreme Court.
“Even though I don’t agree with all the rulings of the NGT, it is still one of the bodies where citizens can approach. There are only three countries in the world which have NGT,” he pointed out.
Mr Ramesh also reminded the gathering about the onslaught the Waterways Act would do to the dolphin and turtle sanctuary in Varanasi.
On being asked about the present government’s seriousness in tackling pollution, he remarked that the Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) that recognized 88 critically polluted areas in the country, on the basis of which moratorium on the development projects in those areas was imposed; but the BJP government has removed the moratorium.
The former minister concluded by saying that though the Congress did not close its doors on the civil society, the BJP does not even believe in it.