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Forests to be sacrificed for coal production?

Written By krishna on Saturday, April 09, 2011 | 11:35 AM

"Go-No Go" concept of forest area classification was done to prevent illegal and arbitrary coal mining

Activists slam Ramesh's compromise on 'go', 'no go' at GoMhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

April 08, 2011

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's offer to further increase the forest areas to be freed for mining to 71 per cent at the meeting of Group of Ministers that had been set up to resolve the conflicting views of the coal and environment ministries on the issue, was today described by environment activists as unfortunate.

In fact, they said they did not expect anything otherwise as the Ministry had been made weak deliberately and was not capable of resisting the development lobby.
The Ministry had categorised the forests in 'go' and 'no go' zones, meaning that heavily forested areas would not be opened for diversion for coal mining, so they were 'no go' areas, whereas those with degraded forests could be considered for mining, and so they were 'go' areas.

His stand was meeting stiff resistance from the Coal and Power Ministries.

At the yesterday's meeting of the GoM, he offered that his Ministry would consider clearing applications for mining in both 'go' and 'no go' zones, and send the rejected projects to the Cabinet for a final decision.

But Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal is reported to have insisted that the entire categorisation should be done away with. However, it was after a joint survey of nine major coal fields carried out last year by the Coal and Environment Ministries, that the 'go' and 'no go' categorisation was made.

Environment activist Gopal Krishna said the Environment Ministry was so structured that it could not act as the final clearing authority.

"In fact, by criticising Mr Ramesh's Ministry when anything goes wrong with environment, it is at a wrong object that we bark at," he said.

"It is the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs that clears any industrial project. And the Environment Impact Assessment which is to be mandatory carried out in respect of any project is done by the project proponents themselves. The rest need not be explained," he said.

Ms Kanchi Kohli of Kalpvrikshu said the whole categorisation of the 'go' and 'no go' areas was misleading as a dense forest if allowed to degrade could turn into a 'go' area going by Mr Ramesh's logic.

At the GoM meeting, Mr Ramesh is also reported to have offered that all projects which had been given a stage-I forest clearance would http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifnot be considered under the 'no go' categorisation at all.

He also proposed to refer all the project rejected by the Forest Advisory Committee to take to the Cabinet for final decision, thus keeping his Ministry clear of taking final blame.

Mr Krishna said the Environment Minister was finally doing "what his ministry was structured to do" so what it was doing was disappointing but not surprising.

http://www.centralchronicle.com/viewnews.asp?articleID=59093

Activists slam Ramesh's compromise on 'go', 'no go' at GoM
New Delhi | Friday, Apr 8 2011 IST

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's offer to further increase the forest areas to be freed for mining to 71 per cent at the meeting of Group of Ministers that had been set up to resolve the conflicting views of the coal and environment ministries on the issue, was today described by environment activists as unfortunate.

In fact, they said they did not expect anything otherwise as the Ministry had been made weak deliberately and was not capable of resisting the development lobby.

The Ministry had categorised the forests in 'go' and 'no go' zones, meaning that heavily forested areas would not be opened for diversion for coal mining, so they were 'no go' areas, whereas those with degraded forests could be considered for mining, and so they were 'go' areas.

His stand was meeting stiff resistance from the Coal and Power Ministries.

At the yesterday's meeting of the GoM, he offered that his Ministry would consider clearing applications for mining in both 'go' and 'no go' zones, and send the rejected projects to the Cabinet for a final decision.

But Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal is reported to have insisted that the entire categorisation should be done away with. However, it was after a joint survey of nine major coal fields carried out last year by the Coal and Environment Ministries, that the 'go' and 'no go' categorisation was made.

Environment activist Gopal Krishna said the Environment Ministry was so structured that it could not act as the final clearing authority.

"In fact, by criticising Mr Ramesh's Ministry when anything goes wrong with environment, it is at a wrong object that we bark at," he said.

"It is the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs that clears any industrial project. And the Environment Impact Assessment which is to be mandatory carried out in respect of any project is done by the project proponents themselves. The rest need not be explained," he said.

Ms Kanchi Kohli of Kalpvrikshu said the whole categorisation of the 'go' and 'no go' areas was misleading as a dense forest if allowed to degrade could turn into a 'go' area going by Mr Ramesh's logic.

At the GoM meeting, Mr Ramesh is also reported to have offered that all projects which had been given a stage-I forest clearance would not be considered under the 'no go' categorisation at all.

He also proposed to refer all the project rejected by the Forest Advisory Committee to take to the Cabinet for final decision, thus keeping his Ministry clear of taking final blame.

Mr Krishna said the Environment Minister was finally doing "what his ministry was structured to do" so what it was doing was disappointing but not surprising.

Mr Sanjay Parikh, the legal activists for environmental causes said all those who were bent upon digging up the heavily forested areas for mining should realise where such development was finally leading to.

"If you don't have agricultural
land to grow food, no water to irrigate and drink, and no trees to breath fresh air, would you call this scenario a developed state?" he said.

-- (UNI) -- 08DI22.xml

http://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/India/20110408/1725956.html

Earlier, it was reported that P Chidambaram asked Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Will you stop production of automobiles because they pollute? in the context of Environment Ministry’s go no-go policy on coal mining at a Group of Ministers meeting in February, 2011. “Every day country was adding thousands of automobiles which definitely danger the environment. For this, we can take mitigation measures and not stop producing cars,” the Home Minister had said.

The Home Minister made these comments while referring to Ramesh’s go-no go policy for coal areas and said the environment ministry’s approach on coal mining was hindering expansion of hydel and nuclear power capabilities. “We have to exploit coal on priority basis to make use of our hydel and nuclear capabilities,” he said.

As per the minutes of the GoM, Chidambaram had an advise for Ramesh on a different approach to protect environment from adverse impact of coal mining.

“Ideal approach should be based on likely damage to the environment and it should be classified on three parameters,” he said. The parameters were irreversible damage to environment, reversible damage to environment and compensatory damage.

The go no-go policy is based on straight jacket approach that coal mining should be allowed only in non-dense forest areas, which were about 65% of the total coal bearing areas in 12 coal blocks studied for the policy.

Chidambaram was of the view that the environment ministry’s policy should be based on damage to environment and how it can be mitigated, instead of a blanket ban on coal mining.

Ramesh had made it clear at the meeting that his ministry will not give “automatic” clearances to projects and he was willing to re-examine the go no-go policy after objections by other ministries. He also said that the Coal ministry had suggested the policy and not him, as being depicted, and now the same ministry was uncomfortable with it.
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