Given that PM Modi publicly debunked climate change as something that happened as “people’s ability to bear cold becomes less as they age”, and dubbed the UPA’s environment ministry as “Jayanthi tax”, this ministry was always going to be a political hot potato under the BJP. Javadekar quickly set the stage by saying he did not want this ministry—that covers everything from wildlife, forests, pollution to climate change—to be a “roadblock” or a “speed-breaker”.
Reportedly, the ministry has cleared a record 240 projects over the past six months, including some controversial thermal and hydro-power projects and opening up of forest land. Not to mention the clearance for Adani Ports’ Mundra SEZ. Has he been overzealous or efficient? While the UPA could be credited with the Forest Rights Act, (and later on trying to dilute it at the state or local level), this government seems to follow the development agenda as an over-arching principle.
Activists and industrialists agree on “streamlining” of the processes but that is where the agreement ends. “Although this government appears to be more in favour of industry, we do not know as of now if they are any different from the previous one. Unfortunately, we do not see much difference,” says Sunita Narain, Centre for Science and Environment, who was removed from the Tiger Task Force. “This government is also too focused on clearances and not other important issues.”
However, the difference between the current and the previous governments seems to be about the scope for resistance. “We were going downhill but now we are hurtling down. Streamlining does not mean dilution of policies,” says Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP. Activists say that unless the Environment Impact Assessment, which is faulty and poor, improves, it will be “burey din” for the environment. As usual, local communities are likely to be impacted the most, and resistance will only grow. At international forums, Javadekar makes a case for leniency towards India as a developing nation and does commit to lesser carbon emissions. However, the indications, as of now, are not concrete or vocal about reducing urban or factory pollution. Contrary to what they had claimed before the elections, Javadekar informed the National Green Tribunal in August that the ministry was not moving forward with the Madhav Gadgil committee report on the conservation of the Western Ghats.
On the whole, the minister, who claims that development can go hand in hand with environment, seems to be helping the ministry of industries rather than doing justice to our fragile world .
@PrakashJavadekar | 1,229 tweets | 2,89,000 followers
“We need to change our habits and attitude to protect environment.”