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Announcing a slew of steps to reduce water and air pollution, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh today said India would not compromise on its stand that developing countries should not be bound by a legal commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“There has been no change in our stand...At Copenhagen, we will not accept any compromise,” Ramesh said replying to a debate on functioning of his ministry. Under the aegis of the UN, a meeting on climate change at Copenhagen in December will try to reach an agreement on Kyoto Protocol to tackle global warming. He said the government would bring in a comprehensive fishermens’ Bill to protect their livelihood and set up the National Environment Protection Authority. Ramesh said the government would bring in the winter session a Bill for comprehensive changes in the Wildlife Protection Act to give more teeth to it.
Ramesh said he was not happy with the allocation for cleaning rivers other than the Ganga for which Rs 250 crore has been provided in the Budget. The National River Ganga Authority has been set up and its first meeting wou;d take place very soon, he said adding that there were about 37 rivers and 57 lakes which were in “pathetic” condition.
The government was spending Rs 300 crore to clean Dal lake in Srinagar, he said adding that the project was running behind schedule by two years.
Referring to environment clearances for industrial projects, Ramesh said the process was slow. The Central Pollution Control Board is woefully inadequate to carry out this difficult task, he said, adding “We are in the process of establishing a National Environmental Authority”.
Admitting that the country was sitting on many Bhopals, he said even after 25 years of the gas tragedy, 350 to 390 tonnes of toxic waste was still disposed of. The issue of sites for disposal at either Pitampur in Madhya Pradesh or Angleshwar in Gujarat was subjudice, he said.
Ramesh said pollution level was alarming at 24 places, which he described as hotspots. These included Angleshwar, Chembur, Bhubaneswar, Durgapur, Visakhapatnam and Vapi.
He said Rs 11,000 crore was lying in bank accounts of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) of which 50 per cent belonged to Chhatisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Ramesh said the government has issued an advisory yesterday stating that all clearances under Forests Conservation Act would be considered by the ministry only after the processses under tribal rights act have been gone through.
As regards the Niyamgiri project of Vedanta in Orissa, he said it would not have been gone through if the tribal act provisions were implemented. The minister was also critical of granting in-principle approval to projects saying "I will get rid of animal called in-principle approval". He said henceforth it would be either approval or rejection and no in-principle approval. Noting that the image of forest officials seem to be corrupt, he said "I am determined to improve that image."
On points raised by members on the Himalayan glaciers, Ramesh said there were differnet view points on the issue and there was no scientific basis for melting. The government was styding the issue and a national glaciers monitoring organisation was being set up. "We will have to increase capacity of our scientists rather than depend on foreign interpretations," he said. On the issue of judicial activism, he said it came whenever executive abdicated its role and added that judicial intervention has prevented disappeance of jungles.