Sunita Narain of CSE, however, is happy that the government did not open floodgates of environmental nods as was feared.
Data pertaining to environment clearances by the government shows that the scale and pace of the NDA is not very different from the UPA, says Sunita Narain of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
She, however, is happy that the government did not open floodgates of environmental nods as was feared.
Another issue is the fact that the NDA has been as poor as the UPA in strengthening institutions for environmental clearances, she says.
Narain is happy with the NDA’s new rules for thermal projects to being down pollution.
Below is the verbatim transcript of Sunita Narain's interview with Shereen Bhan on CNBC-TV18
Q: Let me start by asking you about your assessment of the year gone by for the environment. In your report you say the NDA’s environment clearance record is not significantly different from the UPA’s but this is an achievement that the government has been holding up saying that we have been much faster as far as environmental approvals are concerned, we have gotten things done, there isn’t a logjam at the environment ministry, so in what way do you then say that the NDA is equal to the UPA?
A: No, we have looked at data, this is very fact based. Basically we have looked at all the clearances given by government in the last one year as far as environment is concerned and last nine months as far as forest is concerned and as you will see, sector after sector-in fact the environmental clearance speed or scale is not very different from UPA and UPA in 2009 had cleared many more projects for thermal or iron and steel or bauxite. So, for environmentalists the news is relatively good that we are not seeing the flood gates being opened by this government as we had feared because we know that corporate India was absolutely keen to make environment as the biggest obstacle for growth. So, in that senses we are happy that government has not opened the flood gates. Our assessment is that government has however made two major changes, one it has devolved more and more clearances to the state level without strengthening capacity at the state level and two, in the coal sector the government has definitely diluted the public hearing process. The coal sector seems to be the obsession of this government.
Q: It may have diluted the public hearing process in specific areas but you have no evidence this point in time to suggest that clearances given by the government in the first year have come at the cost of the environment?
A: No, we have no evidence to suggest that environmental clearance record of this government is any different from UPA. What is coming at the cost of environment is the fact that we have very poor processes, we have very bad and poor institutions of governance, of oversight, there is no monitoring, there is no enforcement and to me that is where this government has really failed. For the last UPA’s track record on this was also very poor. It left behind very disabled institutions and convoluted processes which actually meant more corruption but nothing to do with environmental safeguards and what want this government to do is actually improve institutions and processes which it has not done. It has set up a TSR Subramaniam Committee Report in haste, it looked at its findings in haste. The findings of the TSR Subramaniam, some are good, some are poor. We are worried that the government will take it out of context but we definitely find this government as poor as the last government when it comes to strengthening institutions of governance.
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