Comments for Draft Guidelines on Construction and Demolition Waste by 20 March 2017

It is intended to ensure  reduction of environmental impacts from handling of C&D waste. It is a guidance of managing construction and demolition waste in cities with varying population ranging from less than one million to more than million population.
It has talked about the whole life cycle approach of managing C&D waste, i.e generation of C&D waste in India which is very much process driven in nature and the probable impacts that is happening from rampant dumping of this waste into low lying areas or abandoned quarries, vacant plots or sometimes even the outskirts of the city till its final disposal and management which can result in natural resource conservation and employment creation.
Last date for providing comments - 20th Mar, 2017

‘Green nods given to projects that don’t meet criteria’

NEW DELHI: Highlighting irregularities in the process of granting green nods to many projects in the country, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has noted that almost a third of the nearly 200 developmental projects which got environmental clearances between 2011-2015 did not adhere to the procedure of seeking mandatory public consultation.

In its report, tabled in the Parliament on Friday, the CAG also said that the existing processes for grant of environmental clearance in the country suffered from various procedural deficiencies and there were delays at each stage of environment impact assessment (EIA) process.

It said the environmental clearances (EC) were granted to many projects during the period "without checking the compliance conditions" in the previous EC.

Referring to the mandatory public consultation process, the country's central auditor noted that due diligence in process for holding public consultation was not followed in seven sectors and the non-compliance was maximum in case of river valley and hydro electric projects.

"We (CAG) examined 216 projects in environment ministry granted Environment Clearance (EC) between 2011-July 2015, for evaluating the process of public consultation as stipulated in EIA Notification 2006. In 196 projects where public consultation was to be conducted, we found irregularities in 62 projects (32 %)," the CAG said. 

It said due diligence process as prescribed in the EIA notification for the conduct of public consultation was not followed in any of the seven sectors including coal mining, industry, non coal mining, construction, infrastructure, river valley and hydro electric projects and thermal power.

"The non-compliance was maximum in case of river valley and hydro electric projects," it said. The irregularities included delay in conduct of public hearing, missing advertisements, advertisement not in vernacular language, not taking views of public into account, among others.

Not foreign firms, Centre averse to NGOs


Ritwick Dutta, March 9, 2017

Ironically, it was the Cong and BJP that were held guilty for accepting funding from firms abroad.

Last month, the Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Cha­nge Madhav Dave, while addressing members from the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the ministry, reminded them to be wary of the NGOs supported by foreign interests and funding and to ensure that projects are not delayed due to new environmental studies.

Dave told them to keep the overall goal of ‘ease of doing business’ in mind. Earlier, the EAC on River Valley Projects recorded in its minutes of meeting that it will not entertain representations from the civil society groups. Objectively seen, the minister was well within his right to caution experts with respect to policy issues as well as emphasise the Centre’s policy goals.

What is however seriously problematic is that the word of caution is only with respect to civil society groups. Not a word was supposedly spoken about the need to be cautious about business entities, whether Indian or foreign, whose project proposals are scrutinised by the ministry and the EAC.

It is beyond doubt that many foreign companies have been found blatantly violating environmental laws: the Environmental Clearance for Lafarge, the French cement giant, was suspended in 2011 by the Himachal Pradesh High Court on grounds of faulty studies and concealment of information; the environmental and forest clearance for POSCO, the Korean steel giant, was suspended by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in view of blatant illegality and deficient studies and Vedanta/Sterlite’s industrial operations in Tamil Nadu, Goa and Odisha were found to be illegal and improper on environmental grounds by the Supreme Court, high court and NGT; Coca Cola was held guilty of over-exploiting ground water in Kerala.

This is not an exhaustive list. At the international level, Germ­an car giant Volkswagen admitted to having ‘planted’ someth­ing called a “defeat device” — or software — in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to imp­rove results. Foreign companies, ironically, tend to be treated as ‘holy cows’ by the government.

At the domestic level, groups like Jindal Steel, Adani, GVK, Bhilwara, Jaypee Cements have been held guilty of environmental violations by various courts. While not a word is ever said by the political establishment aga­inst such proven violators, they are also regarded as no less sacred than the exotic ‘holy cows.’

One is rather surprised at the aversion towards only NGOs espousing environmental and social concerns. After all, one must not forget that the government does engage actively with a select category of NGOs, who have easy access to the citadels of policy and decision making.

These NGOs include the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the Federation of Indian Commerce and Industries (FICCI), Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI), Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to name a few.

Clearly, and without doubt, SIAM does not have public health as its primary consideration when it articulates for use of highly polluting diesel for private vehicles or for that matter when CREDAI aggressively advocates for exemption from application of environmental laws for real estate projects. The government's policy, irrespective of the party in power, has always been influenced by the pressure exerted by these NGOs.

Yet, not a word of caution is ever expressed by the political leadership when it comes to dealing with these NGOs. On the contrary, political leaders openly hobnob with leaders of these NGOs and solicit their support for implementation of government programmes.

Greenpeace issue

Now, coming to the issue of foreign funding. Two years ago, the Ministry of Home Affairs took action against NGO Greenpea­ce on alleged violation of law, based on a report of the Intelligence Bureau. Not only was its Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) permission suspended, but even its registration as a society was suspended. The Delhi and the Madras HCs overturned the government’s decision, holding it illegal and arbitrary and a violation of the democratic right of citizens.

Ironically, it was the Congress as well as the BJP that were held guilty by the Delhi HC for accepting funding for political activities from the UK-based foreign company — Vedanta and Sterlite. In a clear and unambiguous judgement, the HC concluded that both the parties had violated the FCRA which prohibits political parties from accepting foreign contribution.

Both parties escaped prosecution since the law was subsequently amended with retrospective effect, legalising these contributions. As expected, the law was amended without any objection in Parliament.

The freedom and right to form an association is one of the freedoms under the constitution. So is the freedom of speech and expression. In expressing concerns with respect to environment, civil society groups are only doing what the Indian Constitution requires them to do under Article 51 A (g) — to protect and improve the natural environment and to have compassion for every living creature.

No minister, ministry, government or its expert committee is above the constitution. It is high time those in power recognise not only their constitutional duties, but also the limits of their power and authority under the Constitution.

(The writer is a New Delhi-based environmental lawyer)

What the controversy over BBC documentary on Kaziranga reminds us about models of conservation

The BBC documentary on Kaziranga National Park in Assam, Killing for Conservation, has generated a lot of debate as well as courted controversy. At the centre of the controversy, is the “shoot at sight” powers, as well as perceived legal immunity provided to forest guards from prosecution.

Many conservationists have attributed Kaziranga’s conservation success to this “guns and guard” approach, while others have claimed that such extraordinary powers have led to the “encounter” killing of suspected poachers and even innocent people.

Given this background, it is imperative to examine the legal reality as well as the challenges in protecting the wildlife of Kaziranga.

Blanket immunity?

The belief that forest guards in Kaziranga National Park have orders from the government, empowering them to “shoot at sight” any suspected poacher in the park and enjoy complete legal immunity from criminal prosecution is simply illusory.

No shoot at sight order has been issued by the government. This belief has gained currency since nobody has bothered to find out the facts. If such an order existed, it should be possible to find a copy of it somewhere.

So far as legal immunity from criminal prosecution is concerned, the forest guards and for that matter all forest officers in Assam, have the protection of Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as a result of a Notification issued in 2010 by the State government. This provision states that no criminal prosecution can be initiated against any public servant for acts done in “discharge of his official duty” without prior sanction of the State government. The Notification does not provide for complete immunity but only “initial” immunity from prosecution.

The Notification clearly and unambiguously states:

“whenever firing is resorted to by any of the personnel (forest staff), each such incident shall be enquired into by Executive Magistrate of the locality and any proceeding including institution of a criminal case of any nature or effecting any arrest can be initiated by the police, only if, it is held, as a result of Magisterial Enquiry that the use of firearm has been unnecessary, unwarranted and excessive and such report has been examined and accepted by the Government”.

This provision nowhere provides any “blanket immunity”. Nor does it even by implication confer absolute power to forest department staff to shoot at sight. What is, however, significant to note is that as per the Notification, every case of firing has to be enquired by the Executive Magistrate, irrespective of whether death or injury takes place as a result of the firing.

The real face of enforcement

Kaziranga has been hailed as a conservation success in view of the increase in number of rhinoceros – from a mere handful to more than 2,400, as much as two-thirds of the entire world’s rhino population. It has been argued by some that other conservation parks should follow the Kaziranga model of conservation comprising of heavily armed and trained forest guards.

The reality is however different: Kaziranga National Park is among the most poorly managed and administered conservation parks in the country. It is a story of neglect and apathy. Nothing illustrates this better than the Performance Audit of the park done by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in 2014. The section of the CAG Report dealing with forest guards in Kaziranga is revealing. It states:

‘’Out of the 100 freshly recruited forest guard ... 73 were withdrawn within one year resulting in the deployment of aged staff on frontline duties’...reasons for transferring the fresh recruits out of Kaziranga National Park (KNP) despite increase in poaching cases/ arrests of poachers were not on record”.

With respect to the working condition of the forest guards, the report states:

“allotment of uniform, shoes, rain coats etc is irregular, forcing the wildlife guards to arrange these articles from their own sources......some wildlife guards reported borrowing used uniforms of their siblings serving in other forces’’.

The CAG report highlighted severe shortage of funds and highly inadequate anti-poaching infrastructure in Kaziranga. The situation on the ground remains the same despite the indictment by the CAG

Militancy and poaching

It is claimed that killings by forest department staff have increased after 2010 as a result of the so-called immunity conferred on the forest department staff. Statistically, it is true that more people were killed after 2010 as compared to previous years. However, to conclude that this can be attributed to the so-called immunity given to forest guards is too simplistic a formulation.

An analysis of poaching incidents based on right to information responses from the state government shows a dramatic increase in poaching post 2010 in and around the Kaziranga National Park. Almost one rhino was killed every two weeks in 2015.

If more poachers enter the park, it is more likely that there will be more confrontation with the enforcement staff.

The increase in incidents of poaching can be attributed to many factors, including increased international demand and laxity in enforcement. However, in case of Kaziranga National Park, one cannot overlook the close link between the sudden increase in poaching post 2010 and the birth of new militant outfits in the neighbourhood of Kaziranga. Specifically, in 2011, the Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger was formed with the stated goal of an autonomous Karbi State. The Karbi hills adjoins the Kaziranga National Park.

An analysis of complaints and chargesheets filed by the police and forest department in and around Kaziranga National park, between 2011 and 2014, reveals the direct involvement of this group as well as Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front in poaching of rhinos. The complaints specifically mention the chairman of the Liberation Tiger, Ron Rongpi, as well as defence secretary of the Liberation Front as being involved in poaching. There have been direct recovery of significant number of AK-56 and AK-47 rifles in addition to other sophisticated weapons and large stocks of ammunition.

A board proclaiming the biological heritage of the park. Image: Peter Andersen/Wikimedia [Licensed under CC BY 2.5]
A board proclaiming the biological heritage of the park. Image: Peter Andersen/Wikimedia [Licensed under CC BY 2.5]

The rhino has become a living gold mine and its high-value horn is not just a traditional Chinese medicine, but a currency to buy illegal weapons and fund terrorism. Rhino poaching is thus not just a conservation issue, it has serious national security implications.

In a way, the BBC documentary has drawn national attention to a conservation park which is naively considered as a conservation success simply because of its impressive rhino numbers. Irrespective of the merit of the BBC story, every incident of human rights violations – whether of tribals, locals or even so-called illegal immigrants – needs to be thoroughly investigated with all seriousness and action should be taken in accordance with law.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority, acted with unprecedented speed in taking action against the BBC for what it called a wrong portrayal of India’s conservation effort. One only hopes that the the Authority shows the same level of enthusiasm and initiative when it comes to protecting the tiger habitats, which is its statutory mandate. The government of Assam must give priority and consider Kaziranga as a park that needs serious attention and not just as a showpiece for tourist and high-profile visitors to come and feed orphaned rhinos and elephants. Conservation groups should seriously reconsider the opinion that the Kaziranga model of conservation should be replicated in other parks as a solution for all conservation problems.

Kaziranga is not a symbol of conservation success, it is the epitome of all the challenges faced in conserving and protecting wildlife in India. Its model cannot be and should not be replicated in other parks.

Ritwick Dutta is an environmental lawyer and leads the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment.

Adani group seeks another 142ha forest land near Nagzira

NAGPUR:The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), topmost body under MoEFCC which in recent times has been on a forest land diversion spree, is considering another proposal to divert 142 hectares forest land for Adani Power Maharashtra Limited (APML) in Tiroda in Gondia district.

The proposed land is zudpi and protected forest land, equivalent to roughly 103 football fields, and barely 8km from Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR). This is the second forest land diversion since commissioning of the 3,300MW plant in 2013. Earlier, 164 hectares forest was diverted to the power major.

The land is to be used for building ash utilization park and came before FAC on February 28. Environmentalists have opposed the proposed diversion considering the facts that the said extension falls in the wildlife corridor and is close to NNTR. They say it will negatively impact the core area and tigers.

Wildlife expert Kishor Rithe, who was member of the NTCA committee to study impact of 164 hectare forest land diversion in 2010, has urged FAC to reject the proposal stating that fresh diversion will cause pollution and will not only impact residents but also spill over population of tigers and Nagzira adversely.

"It would be a setback for long-term tiger conservation in the region," he added. Even review by Pushp Jain, director of EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), Delhi, says Adani proposal underplays biodiversity value of the land and it is also a non-site specific activity. "There is thumb rule that forest land should not be diverted for non-site specific activity," Jain said.

Further, ERC says cost-benefit analysis presented by the user agency doesn't mention loss of non-timber forest products (NTFP), which is shown as nil. "If the forest land is diverted and 1,500 trees chopped down, the NTFPs, which are a source of income for the locals, will also be lost," said Jain. Gondia forest division working plan clarifies that the area has great NTFP diversity such as mahua flower and seed, kullu, dhaoda and salad gums, charoli, hirda, beheda, honey, lac etc.

Gondia deputy conservator Jitendra Ramgaonkar tried to justify the proposed diversion. "The capacity of existing fly ash ponds is exhausted and tonnes of ash was being generated daily. If additional facilities are not created the plant will shut," he added.

Adani thermal power plant generates at least 6,000 tonnes of ash daily but only 300 tonnes is used for brick making and land filling. A German firm plans to set up ash park by investing Rs50-60 crore and sources said this would be first such park in the country.

Roy Paul, general manager (corporate communication), Adani Power, sought a day to give an official version.

Experts point out forest land was being sought despite non-forest land being available. Forest land was being being sought as it would come cheap at only Rs8-9 lakh per hectare, they said.

Ramgaonkar said the land was fragmented and difficult to manage. "To approach it, one has to go through power plant gates. It is also out of NNTR eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) and we have sought Rs 3 crore for wildlife conservation from Adani," he added.

Jain said forest officials were casual about wild animal presence in the site inspection report. One of the animals is mentioned as 'common have', hyena, wild boar, deer etc. Interestingly, there is no animal by name 'common have' and also the use of the word 'etc' is ambiguous.