The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has demanded a moratorium on forest and environment clearances (EC) for power and mining projects till the government takes stock of the projects that have been already cleared.
Claiming that the number of projects already cleared was more than the required capacity, the CSE hinted at a possibility of scam to take over land and water resources. It has now demanded a white paper from the government on the issue.
It analysed the environment and forest clearances granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in five sectors — thermal power, hydro-power, iron and steel, cement and mining — and found that the scale of clearances was “unprecedented”.
The study revealed that forest clearances to projects were given at unprecedented rate in the last five years. It claimed that 8,284 projects were granted forests clearance and 2.04 lakh hectare of forestland was diverted, which is about 25 percent of all forestland diverted for development projects since 1981.
In 2009 alone, 87,883 hectares of forestland was granted 0clearance. Of those 2,04 lakh hectares, about 35 percent was cleared for mining and power projects alone.
The study said that during the last five years, MoEF has granted ECs that would double the current coal based power plant capacity as well as the cement production capacity.
“The targets for thermal power capacity during 11th and 12th five year plans are 50,000 and 100,000 MW but till August 2011 the MoEF granted clearances to 210,000 MW of thermal power capacity, which means 60,000 MW of capacity additional to what is proposed till 2017,” the study revealed.
CSE’s deputy director general Chandra Bhushan said: “Why are projects that have been already cleared not being implemented first before more clearances can be given? Is this some kind of new scam to take over the land and water of the people?”
CSE’s director general Sunita Narain demanded a white paper on the issue. “The government should put a moratorium on all these projects,” she said, adding that they have sought a meeting with environment minister Jayanthi Natrajan to apprise her of these findings. She said they would also write to other ministries concerned about their findings.
Narain and Bhushan also said “this is just the tip of the iceberg.” They stated that they were not able to get papers regarding projects which were cleared by state authorities. “There should be a central database for all clearances given so that it is in public domain,” they added.