Western Ghats eRc Cell
Western Ghats is a significant ecosystem with a large expanse through several state boundaries, so its management as such is guided by the state policies and economic gains that the states might earn through various projects. Being a very significant ecosystem, the Western Ghats is shadowed by two proximate threats which are localised threats and landscape level threats. As per estimates, only about 24.8% of the forests in Western Ghats landscape are unfragmanted, the rest either destroyed or fragmented by allowing mining, infrastructure projects of varying intensity. With the rich natural resources sitting in the lap of Western Ghats, the development or growth model wants to exploit the resources at a much larger pace than ever. Only in the last two years about 118 new mining leases have been granted in the forest areas of Goa, thermal plants in Konkan region, massive tunneling and hill cutting for highways and railways in the Sahyadris in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu presents a cummulative threat to such a rich ecosystem and unless there is a systematic, informed and coordinated as well as participatory action to deal at the landscape level, the current wave of development and its ill perceived impacts would take its toll on this rich ecosystem.
About Environment Impact Assessments
Environment Impact Assessment process is practiced with least of the concerns at the landscape or even localized environmental and social issues thereby making it as a mere formality for environmental clearance rather than sincerely addressing the real concerns that the project should be addressing. The Environment Impact Assessment process is problematic in view of the following:
Environment impact Assessment reports, prepared at the behest of project proponents rarely, if ever, present a true picture of either the ecological significance or the real adverse impact of a project.
- Destructive projects are approved without any detailed scrutiny and in most instances on the basis of hurriedly done Rapid Environment Impact Assessment (REIA) reports i.e. based on only three months data instead of a comprehensive four season (one year) assessment.
- In many instances, data is plagiarized, a routine "Cut and Paste" Environment Impact Assessment is prepared and a cosmetic public hearing takes place
- Civil Society groups as well as local people have a limited understanding and accessibility about the EIA process i.e. how and when to intervene in the process, what to look out for and how to legally challenge a faulty Environment Impact Assessment and approval granted to a destructive project.
"Western Ghats Environment Impact Assessment Cell' performs several activities and coordinate and brings together local organisations, interest groups, alliances and also build capacities in order to respond and take actions on such developmental directions.
What We Intend to Do
The aim is to make the environmental decision making as effective as it can through the following activities as well as challenging the faulty EIA process and its integrated sub processes through channels of formal forums like appellate authority (National Environment Appellate Authority), courts and the custodian Ministry of Environment and Forests and many others.
- Capacity building of Civil Society Organisations and Communities
- Conducting Alternative Assessments
- Action and Advocacy alongwith organizations in Western Ghats
- Facilitating the creation of a network / forum of like-minded interested groups to channelise the existing scientific knowledge and bringing forward local knowledge as a tool to challenge the faulty processes of EIA.