Over 30 proposals that have been cleared or discussed over virtual meetings during the lockdown by India’s highest advisory bodies on wildlife — the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).
The proposals affect 15 tiger reserves, sanctuaries, eco-sensitive zones, wildlife corridors, and other forest areas.
Dehing Patkai and Gir National Park among the 30 projects discussed
The projects include a coal mining proposal in Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve in Assam, a highway through Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa, a limestone mine in the eco-sensitive zone of Gir National Park, and a geotechnical investigation in the Sharavathi Lion-Tailed Macaque Sanctuary in Karnataka, among others.
The news of the virtual clearance has also triggered protests from people and activists on social media. There are online campaigns with hashtags #StopEtalinSaveDibang and #SaveArunachalBiodiversity, #SaveDehingPatkai etc.
Concerned over the development, though not entirely surprised: Jairam Ramesh
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has raised strong objections to clearances given to projects by various panels of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Ramesh, who is the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forests and Climate Change, wrote a letter to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, raising his serious concerns and strong disapproval over the matter.
In a letter to Javadekar, the senior Congress leader said that he was “most concerned and disturbed” over the development, though not entirely surprised.
“The public health crisis that the world is going through is symptomatic of a deeper ecological crisis. This should be an opportunity to pause and reflect. Instead, your ministry is going full throttle ahead. I request you to immediately issue a moratorium on these and other clearances given during the lockdown period at least,” Ramesh said in his letter to Javadekar.
“Under normal circumstances, these clearances should cause worry; that they have been given during the lockdown period is atrocious. I cannot imagine any worthwhile due diligence that would have been done by the committees concerned,” he told the minister.