Thursday, April 1, 2010


I tend to stay away from rants, activism and politics on this blog, but now it's getting personal. How can the world hound a crush of mine and not expect me to take up arms? 'The world' is a bit of exaggeration. It is a small section of the world..But that does not mean that I cannot snarl in protest!

Jairam Ramesh, our minister of environment and forests is being upbraided for..well, for doing what he is supposed to do. One of the responsibilities of the MoEF is to assess the environmental impact of large infrastructure projects and accordingly give clearance to them. Sadly in the past, our government has only read the 'give clearance' bit. Today, we have an official who truly understands his job and is willing to do it. Instead of being commended, Mr.Ramesh is facing flak from cabinet ministers and from the Prime minister's office 'for delaying clearance'. He has been called, among other things, a 'green roadblock'.

A part of my job entails scrutinizing the environmental impact assessment reports submitted for hydro-electricity projects. These have made me weep. These are ideally, meant to be written to present an objective assessment of the projects concerned. Objective, hah! The remuneration of the EIA consultant is subject to approval of the project, which is a strong incentive for 'pushing' the project instead of 'assessing' it. Further, the reports have been written assuming complicity on the part of all its readers. Which means that there is not even an attempt at appearing to be honest, leave alone being honest. Large paragraphs are common to several project reports- irrespective of suitability. Over  and over, the assessment is contained in one sentence 'this project has no negative environmental impact'. Damming a river, in the Himalayas, in a biodiversity rich, fragile, landslide prone cannot have NO impact. The reports are full of blanket statements like these,and Mr.Ramesh's insistence on accreditation indicates that he has read them.

I am a fan- a delirously swooning, cheering fan-  of Mr.Ramesh's based on his statements in the press and what little I've seen of him. There was his statement on taking office that ' a 98% clearance rate of projects by the MoEF is a sign that the ministry is not doing its job' which had caused M and me to do a little jig around the office. He attended part of a seminar I had gone for, and had come for it on time and having read the report and reflected on it. That is almost unheard of in India. During the Bt brinjal issue, he took the trouble to have several public meetings, and gave democracy a fighting chance. And now there is this.

Shabaash, mere Jairam!

(Thanks to cats-and-facts dot com for the image)


Anonymous said...

and shabaash to you and others who care

Grumpy Granny said...

Bravo to your minister! I worked for a lawyer a few years ago who was hired by a citizens group here to stop a cement plant from coming to my town. We fought the good fight, after combing over 4,000 pages of scientific documentation related to particulate matter and air pollution, but the citizens didn't have the money that the cement plant has, so now it is occupying space a mere 10 miles or so from my house.

It's good to know there are others who fight the good fight.



Ellie said...

People are all talk about doing things for the better ... until doing things for the better impinges on their level of comfort. I do a little jig with you. xx, e