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NGOs reject draft of environment policy

By Our Staff Reporter

BANGALORE, OCT. 31. Some of the environmental and social organisations in the State are sore with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for not consulting them before formulating the new environmental policy.

The stakeholders, who include researchers, academics, and non-governmental organisations, should be consulted before finalising the new policy.

The Union Ministry, which posted the draft policy on its website (http://envfor.nic.in) on August 15, provided no information on how to engage with it on finalising the draft and made a mention in passing that comments on the draft policy should be e-mailed for consideration or possible integration.

The deadline was October 30, which has now been extended to November 30.

Contention

A network of environment and social justice consultants and researchers contended that the policy had been drafted without any demonstrated consultation and released on the website without communicating it widely through the media and advertisements.

"This clearly goes against the precedent set by the Planning Commission and the Constitutional Review Commission", says Leo F. Saldanha of Environment Support Group, which is part of the network.

Discussion

In an open letter to the Ministry on the day the deadline was extended, the network rejected the draft policy, saying it had been shaped without prior discussion in the State legislatures or Parliament.

No State Government was known to have initiated exercises to consult researchers, non-governmental organisations or the media, Mr. Saldanha added.

The Ministry intends to engage in consultations with some representatives of the Government, industry, and non-governmental organisations in Delhi, all through November, and they would be held on the assumption that the document had been widely debated.

Mr. Saldanha said the draft policy appeared to be a mere instrument of the Ministry and the public was conspicuous by its absence in this process.

`Lapses'

In two open letters sent earlier, the network of non-governmental organisations had drawn the attention of the Ministry to critical lapses in the protection of the environment, wildlife, and access to resources by communities dependent on the forest. It appeared that the Ministry was not serious about the consultation process or involving the people in the policy drafting process, he said.

Feedback

The letter, which has been signed by Mr. Saldanha, Ravi Agarwal of Toxis Link, Shekhar Singh of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information, and Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh on behalf of 92 other organisations and individuals, called for urgent initiation of a widespread participatory process of obtaining feedback to formulate a fresh environmental policy.

They want the justification and objectives of the new policy to be clearly stated and include a long-term vision of India's environment, analysis of linkages to past policies and their success and failures, and an explicit commitment to put environmental security and human survival values above all short-term economic interests.

The draft should be translated into all major Indian languages and circulated in hard copy through local institutions and during public consultations all over the country.

Special efforts should be made to reach out to farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, and tribal people, the non-governmental organisations said.

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