Environmentalist says ministry deliberately delaying release of FAC agenda

Environmentalist says ministry deliberately delaying release of FAC agenda

Nagpur: The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) is delaying putting the agenda of forest land diversion projects in public domain ostensibly to quell opposition from various quarters.

On December 26, the FAC considered diversion of 4,377 hectare forest land, a majority of it for mining projects. However, the meeting's agenda was shared on December 20.

FAC considered the projects which included the diversion of 3,952 hectare forest land for mining alone in Maharashtra (153ha), Chhattisgarh (1,294ha), Odisha (2,355ha), and Rajasthan (149ha), while the remaining area was for wind power and other projects. The minutes of the meeting is not released yet.

Pushp Jain, director of EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), alleged there are serious delays in sharing FAC agenda.

"The meeting was on December 26, but the agenda was shared only 6 days before that. This is ostensibly being done to ensure there is no opposition," Jain said.

Delhi-based ERC keeps watch on Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) processes and ensures that impact of developmental activities on India's environment and communities is properly accessed and accounted for.

Jain said of the total 4,377 hectares, maximum diversion is proposed for mining amounting to 90% (3,952ha). Odisha leads among states with maximum diversion proposed followed by Chhattisgarh.

Out of the 27 projects, 20 have been considered for review. The remaining seven projects are already granted stage I & II clearance and appeared for issues to be sorted out.

Jain says there were several problems with this agenda. There were 25 proposals but documents links were given for 4 proposals only. The title of proposals were incomplete and there was no mention whether it is a renewal of lease or stage I or II clearance already granted or a new proposal.

ERC said the agenda do have links to documents but titles of the proposals on the face of it are not clear. There were 25 proposals but two more were added on time, which means 27 proposals were discussed in one day.

Earlier too the ministry had announced FAC meeting for December 12 without the agenda being made available. The ERC strongly protested against it and pointed out to MoEFCC that ERC has not carried out rapid review of some proposals on agenda and hence is unable present issues and suggestions for consideration.

"This seems to be mischievous. Finally, due to representation by ERC and probably pressure from some independent members, better sense prevailed and MoEFCC postponed the meeting to December 26," says Jain.
Environmentalists, who did not want to be quoted, said this shows how the BJP government at the Centre is in a tearing hurry to clear detrimental projects. Of the late it is frequently happening that FAC agenda is not being put up in public domain.
 

 

ERC representatives said for earlier meeting on November 9-10, 2016, the agenda was put in public domain on November 5. Secondly, new proposals were quietly added to the agenda subsequently on November 7.
 

 

Conservationists said members of FAC should protest this attitude of the MoEFCC on ethical and moral grounds and demand action against officials responsible for the mess.
 

 

"Ideally, agenda of the meeting should be uploaded at least 10 days in advance with relevant documents made available," says Jain.

NGT notice to MoEFCC, MoUD for diluting construction norms

 

The notice was issued in an application filed by Pushp Jain, director, EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), who is associated with protection of environment, forest and wildlife for over 35 years.

Vijay Pinjarkar  |  TNN  |  January 03, 2017, 07:55 IST

NAGPUR: The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench at Delhi, on Monday issued notice to ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) and ministry of urban development (MoUD) for dilution of laws for buildings and constructions.

The notice was issued in an application filed by Pushp Jain, director, EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), who is associated with protection of environment, forest and wildlife for over 35 years.

The MoEF & CC, whose job is to protect country’s natural resources, issued notification on December 9, 2016, amending the provisions of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006. This in effect has removed the entire construction sector (up to 1,50,000 sqmt built up area) from the purview of environmental laws including the Environment (Protection) Act 1986; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 & Water (Prevention and control of pollution) Act 1974.

The MoUD, which formulates laws relating to housing and urban development, has issued Model Building by-laws in March 2016. One of the aims of the by-laws is to address growing environmental concerns.

Currently this objective of environmental safeguard is achieved through obtaining a specific environmental clearance (EC) for any construction project having a size of more than 20,000 sqmts.

However, Jain says the impugned notification not only dilutes existing environmental legislations, it is completely vague and ambiguous with terms like ‘as far as possible’, ‘as much as possible’, have been used several times with respect to various stipulated conditions.

“The new notification, completely exempts construction projects from taking wildlife clearance even if the project site is within 10km radius of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or protected areas,” said Jain.

The laws have been bended to gain political mileage. ‘Housing for all’ is main target of ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna’, which plans to cover 20 million household to slum poor and urban poor by 2022.

However, the notification has the effect of extending such an exemption to all other residential buildings, shopping malls, office complexes, multiplexes, IT buildings, educational institutions, hostels, etc. “Such an exemption under the guise of housing for urban poor is an eyewash and therefore, it is to be quashed,” the applicant states.

The notification ignores adverse environmental impacts due to construction sector, which is a huge contributor to air pollution as well as climate change as per the MoUD by-laws itself.

Jain says intensive construction activities directly relates to an increase in energy and water consumption, amount of waste generated and the impacts of the same on natural resources due to such constructions would be unprecedented.

The environmentalist says construction sector emits about 22% of India’s total annual CO2 emissions, according to a ‘Case Study for Construction in India’ — by Development Alternatives.

The removal of construction activities from the purview of the EIA Notification, 2006 will only mean a larger carbon footprint, and consequently, a breach of India’s international obligations, which it submitted in the form of a Climate Action Plan.

http://realty.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/regulatory/ngt-notice-to-moefcc-moud-for-diluting-construction-norms/56304627

Rule of policy as against rule of law

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/588806/rule-policy-against-rule-law.html

Ritwick Dutta, Dec 29, 2016

If policy decisions override statutory provisions, then such decisions are clearly questionable.

With the onset of winter, air pollution gains prominence as an issue of grave public concern. Despite its predictability, the central and the state governments have failed to take a single concrete step to deal with this environmental crisis.

An ‘action plan’ was framed to deal with the issue but in reality all that one had was only ‘plan’ and no ‘action’. Political parties also remained silent. Just like the people who hoped that a fresh wind will blow away the polluted air, the political parties have adopted silence as the most effective mitigation measure on the issue of air pollution, or for that matter, any environmental crisis.

In such situation the people were left with no option but to approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The NGT intervened directing that all the government shut down all stone crushers, construction activities, brick kilns and plying of old vehicles in the National Capital Region (NCR) for a week, in order to control the level of pollution. During the recent hearings before the NGT, the secretaries to the government dealing with environment in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh admitted that they have never bothered to even read the various direction passed by the NGT on air pollution.

Before the NGT, the bureaucrats appear to be meek public servants who are subjected to political pressure and excessive work load, not to mention frequent transfers. Yet, behind the bureaucratic veil, hectic work is underway to dismantle India’s environmental law and weaken institutions. One victim of the dilution as been the requirement of prior environmental clearance for building and construction projects. It is pertinent to point out that the building and construction sector is a significant contributor to air pollution.

The existing law – the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 – requires that all building and construction projects which involve 20,000 square metres or more should obtain prior Environmental Clearance from the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). The SEIAA is required to evaluate the likely environmental impact due to the proposed construction and decide as to whether the project should be approved or not. Any person can approach the NGT in case they want to challenge the grant of clearance or if there is violation of the clearance/ approval conditions.

Construction projects such as flyovers, bridges, shopping malls etc, require environmental clearance if the construction is equal or more than 20,000 sq m. It is because of this provision that citizens have been able to approach the NGT to challenge ecologically unsustainable constructions, including the steel flyover and constructions on wetlands and around lakes in Bengaluru.

On December 9, the Centre issued amendments to the EIA Notification, 2006 as part of its ‘Ease of doing Responsible Business’ policy, under which it has exempted most construction up to 1,50,000 sq m from the Environment Impact Assessment process. This is mischievously called ‘Climate Resilient Constructions’. Strangely, there is not a word in the Notification, on how exempting construction projects from the Environment Impact Assessment process will make them climate resilient. Even more shocking is that the exemption is being justified under ‘housing for all’. The fact is that if housing for all is the purpose, why is the new notification exempting shopping malls, multiplex and office complex from the EIA process ?

Vacancies galore


At an institutional level, the NGT is functioning below its statutory strength. No new appointments have been made in recent months and out of the statutorily mandated 40 members, only 14 members are presently in office. This shortage is adversely affecting the functioning of the Tribunal. The vacancy here is an issue of serious concern. Unfortunately, when there is nearly 43% vacancy for judges in the high courts, the vacancy in the NGT does not seem to be the priority of either the judiciary or the executive.

The process of dilution of environmental laws is being undertaken to implement policy decisions of the government. The Government of India is keen to project the image that India is the ideal place to not only do business but also set up manufacturing units. There is nothing wrong in both of them. However, if the policy decisions override constitutional rights and statutory provisions, then such policy decisions are clearly questionable.

Specifically, if the policy decisions are to be implemented by diluting environmental safeguards, it will only aggravate the existing environmental crisis. Laying down red carpets for business entities, both national and MNCs, must be matched with strong safeguards for protecting the rights of the people and environment in order to protect them from the additional pollution load.

Unless, this is done, the people and ecology will end up being consumers of the toxic cocktail of air and water pollutants emitted by the industries while business entities reap profits. It will be a sad instance of the people of the largest democracy in the world being subjected to the ‘Rule of Policy’ rather than the ‘Rule of Law’.

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

Mining should be barred in 40% of India's forests: Forest Survey report

Environment ministry is yet to act upon report; coal block report hasn't been implemented either

Nitin Sethi  |  New Delhi December 29, 2016 Last Updated at 00:40 IST

Over Forty per cent of India’s existing forest cover should be kept safe from mining of all sorts, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has calculated based on parameters the government set for it to secure green areas of the country. The report, submitted in August 2016, has not yet been acted upon by the Union environment, forests and climate change ministry, while it continues to give piece­meal approval to proposals for mining coal and other minerals across the country. Business Standard reviewed the report submitted by the FSI to the ministry in August.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/mining-should-be-barred-in-40-of-india-s-forests-forest-survey-report-116122800727_1.html

FAC considered diversion of 4377 ha on 26 December 2016

FAC considered diversion of 4377 ha on 26 December 2016          

Serious delays in sharing of agenda by MoEF&CC

Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has considered diversion of 4377 ha of forest in its meeting on 26 December 2016 as per the agenda issued on 20 December 2016.

Maximum diversion is proposed for mining amounting to 90 per cent (3952 ha) of the total. Odisha leads among states with maximum diversion proposed followed by Chhattisgarh.

Sector-wise area proposed for diversion

Sr. No.

Sector

Area

%Area

Proposals

%Proposals

1

Mining

3952

90.29

17

85

2

Wind Power

353

8.0674

2

10

3

Others

72

1.645

1

5

-

Total

4377

100

20

100

 

State and Sector-wise area proposed for diversion

Sr No

State

Sector

Area

%Area

Proposals

% Proposals

1

Chhattisgarh

Mining

1294.474

29.574

7

35

2

Maharashtra

Mining

153.09

3.4976

1

5

3

Orissa

Mining

2354.941

53.803

8

40

4

Rajasthan

Mining

149.3002

3.411

1

5

5

Gujarat

Wind Power

297.38

6.7942

1

5

6

Andhra Pradesh

Wind Power

55.73

1.2732

1

5

7

Karnataka

Others

72.177

1.649

1

5

-

Total

-

4377.092

100

20

100

*Out of 27 projects 20 have been considered for review. Left out seven projects are already granted stage I /II clearance and appearing for issues to be sorted out. (Please refer status column in the list annexed below)

 

The ministry has put out one agenda on 19 December 2016. There were several problems with this agenda. There were 25 proposals but documents links were given for 4 proposals only. The title of proposals were incomplete (no mention whether it a renewal of lease or stage I /II clearance already granted or a new proposal).

The present agenda on 20 December do have links to documents but the tiles of the proposals on the face of it are not clear. Secondly, two more proposals are added.  There are 27 proposals to be discussed in one day i.e. on an average, 15 minutes for each proposal! Also, this gives just 4-5 days to review the proposals to provide comments to the Committee by public spirited concerned persons.

There are several issues /delays with sharing of FAC agenda and documents related to proposals by  MoEF&CC.

For example, the ministry had announced the FAC meeting for 12 December 2016 without agenda being made available! EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC) strongly protested against it and pointed out to MoEF, ‘ERC has not carried out rapid review of some proposals on the agenda of the FAC meeting and is unable present issues and suggestions for your consideration as the agenda for a meeting on 12 Dec 2016 has not been announced even on 8 December 2016! Furthermore, 10-11 December is weekend.  To say the least this is mischievous.’ It seems because of the representation of ERC and probably pressure of some independent members of FAC, better sense prevailed and MoEF&CC postponed the meeting.

 

Late putting up of agenda of FAC meetings has been happening for last few months and things are getting more and more difficult.  ERC highlighted the issue of the agenda being put in public domain very late in some of its representations. For example, for the meeting on 9-10 November 2016, the agenda was put in public domain on 5 November only. Secondly, new proposals were quietly added to the agenda subsequently on 7 November!

 

Ethically and morally, members of FAC should protest this attitude of the Ministry and recommend action against the officials responsible for the situation. Agenda should be uploaded at least 10 days in advance with relevant documents made available.

 

Pushp Jain & Terence Jorge

EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC)

New Delhi - 110 048. India Web : ercindia.org;

Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

LIST OF PROJECTS

Agenda of the meeting is available at

http://ercindia.org/index.php/latest-updates/upcoming-events

SI No.

File no.

Name of the Proposal / Agenda Item

State

Area (ha)

Category

View Documents

Status

1

8-ORA105/2006-FCD

DIVERSION OF GANDHAMARDAN BLOCK 'A' MINES IN KEONJHAR FOREST DIVISION IN FAVOUR OF M/S ORISSA MINING CORPORATION LIMITED

ORISSA

216.3617

MINING

Click On

Granted Stage I FC-17 FEB 2009

2

8-55/2016-FC

DIVERSION OF 75.055 HA. MAHAN-II OPEN CAST COAL MINE

CHHATTISGARH

75.055

MINING

Click On

New

3

8-21/2016-FC

DIVERSION 297.38 HA OF FOREST LAND FOR CONSTRUCTION OF WIND POWER PROJECT BY SRIJAN ENERGY SYSTEMS PVT. LTD.

GUJARAT

297.38

WIND POWER

Click On

New

4

8-53/2016-FC

84.464 HA. REVENUE FOREST LAND IN THE VILLAGE CHILHATI, GODADIH, BELHA, SUKULKARI, TEHSIL-MASTURI, DISTRICT-BILASPUR (C.G.)

CHHATTISGARH

84.464

MINING

Click On

New

5

8-25/2012-FC

DIVERSION OF 55.73 HA OF FOREST LAND IN RAMGIRI (EAST & WEST) RF OF ANANTHAPUR DIVERSION FOR ESTABLISHING 40.00 MW WIND POWER PROJECTS- IN FAVOUR OF M/S SARJAN REALITIES LTD., HYDERABAD.

ANDHRA PRADESH

55.73

WIND POWER

Click On

New

6

8-57/2016-FC

OJASWI MARBLE & GRANITE PVT LTD

RAJASTHAN

149.3

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

7

8-35/2016-FC

MINING LEASE IN F/O SHRI RUDRASEN SINDHU M/S ROHTAK ENGINEERING COMPANY (MAGANESE).

ORISSA

44.954

MINING

Click On

Stage I FC

8

8-60/2016-FC

BAINIBASA GRAPHITE MINE.

ORISSA

44.038

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

9

8-36/2016-FC

SAGASAHI IRON & MANGANESE MINES.

ORISSA

363.436

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

10

8-50/2016-FC

DIVERSION OF FOREST LAND IN SIDHAMATH RESERVE FOREST IN FAVOUR OF DR. SAROJINI PRADHAN FOR IRON AND MANGANESE ORE MINING.

ORISSA

94.259

MINING

Click On

Stage I FC

11

8-56/2016-FC

KALAPARBAT IRON & MANGANESE ML AREA OF DR.SAROJINI PRADHAN.

ORISSA

146.545

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

12

8-62/2016-FC

KODINGAMALI BAUXITE.

ORISSA

428.075

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

13

8-63/2016-FC

DIVERSION OF FOREST LAND OVER 152.591 HA. IN TALANGI-B CHROMITE MINING LEASE OF IDCOL.

ORISSA

152.591

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

14

8-59/2016-FC

PROPOSAL FOR DIVESION OF 806.153 HA OF FOREST LAND IN BONAI AND KOENHAR FOREST DIVISION IN ODISHA FOR IRON ORE MINING BY NILACHAL ISPAT NIGAM LTD.

ORISSA

806.153

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

15

8-31/2016-FC

KHANDBANDH IRON ORE MINE.

ORISSA

176.01

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

16

8-68/2016-FC

DIVERSION OF 50.00 HA. MINE CLOSURE PLAN OF METABODELI IRON ORE DEPOSIT IN KANKER DISTRICT OF CHHATTISGARH IN FAVOUR OF M/S JAYASWAL NECO INDUSTRIES LTD.

CHHATTISGARH

57

MINING

Click On

Stage I FC

17

8-69/2016-FC

IRON ORE MINING IN FAVOUR OF M/S IND SYNERGY LIMITED IN HAHALDDI RANGE, BHANUPRATAPPUR (EAST) FOREST DIVISION.

CHHATTISGARH

314

MINING

Click On

Stage I FC

18

8-64/2016-FC

CHHOTEDONGAR IRON ORE MINES.

CHHATTISGARH

66.02

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

19

8-71/2016-FC

PATHRAI BAUXITE MINES.

CHHATTISGARH

99.35

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

20

8-72/2016-FC

BAILADILA IRON ORE MINE DEP-4 PROJECT OF NMDC LTD., BHANSI VILLAGE DANTEWADA DIST SOUTH BASTAR CG.

CHHATTISGARH

665.23

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

21

8-66/2016-FC

RASULI IRION ORE MINES.

CHHATTISGARH

220

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

22

8-67/2016-FC

DIVERSION OF 413.745 HA OF FOREST LAND FOR BAILDILA IRON ORE MINING PROJECT IN FAVOUR OF M/S NMDC LIMITED IN DANTEWADA FOREST DIVISION IN DANTEWADA DISTRICT OF CHHATTISGARH - REG. (IRON ORE).

CHHATTISGARH

413.745

MINING

Click On

Stage I FC

23

8-38/2015-FC

PROPOSAL FOR GRANTING OF PERMISSION UNDER FC ACT 1980 TOWARDS RE-GRANT OF KHARSANG PETROLEUM MINING LEASE (PML), COVERING 9.94 SQ KM (ORIGINALLY PROPOSAL 11.00 SQ KM) IN CHANGLANG, DISTRICT OF ARUNACHAL PRADESH.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH

994

MINING

 

Regrant

24

8-58/2016-FC

LAND DIVERSTION FOR RCU BELAGAVI

KARNATAKA

72.177

OTHERS

Click On

New Allocation of fresh forest land (Form-A)

25

8-61/2016-FC

GOPANI IRON & POWER (INDIA) PVT. LTD.

MAHARASHTRA

153.09

MINING

Click On

New application under section 2 (iii)

26

8-87/1996-FC VOL

BOLANI ORES MINES (6.90 SQ.MILE ML) OF SAIL, DIST: KEONJHAR ODISHA

ORISSA

238.093

MINING

Click On

New fresh allocation of forest land

27

8-70/2016-FC

CAPTIVE LIME STONE MINES (AREA 299.751 HEC) SKS ISPAT & POWER LIMITED.

CHHATTISGARH

84.474

MINING

Click On

New