According to data released by the Centre for Science and Environment, the National Board of Wildlife has cleared 301 projects, deferred 105 and rejected only four projects in and around wildlife habitats since the National Democratic Alliance came to power. The board, headed by the prime minister, has the authority to review and approve all wildlife-related matters, including projects in and around sanctuaries and national parks.
The CSE’s analysis of two years of NDA also showed that the previous government, the United Progressive Alliance, had a rejection rate of 12.2% for such projects, over five years.
The report has added that the current government came under fire after the NBWL was re-constituted in 2014. In its first meeting in 2014, 133 projects were recommended by the board. The issue was then taken to the Supreme Court, which had put the projects on hold. The next year, the board cleared 65% of projects.
Though the report says that there have not been significant changes in granting environmental clearances, “for forest clearances, average rate of forestland diversion has reduced”. While measures have been taken to ease the process of acquiring such clearances, there has been “no improvement in enforcement to protect environment and interests of local communities”.
The analysis shows that measures have been taken to control pollution, including stricter pollution standards for industrial sectors such as coal-based power plants. New waste management rules, the move to implement an air quality index, increasing LPG connections and placing an infrastructure tax on vehicles depending on their scale of pollution are, according to CSE, some positive steps the NDA has taken.
However, there has been no improvement in the implementation of environment protection laws under NDA rule, PTI quoted the report as saying. It said that steps taken by the Centre could remain “mere half measures” unless counter-measures were initiated at the earliest. “The NDA government has taken some important steps towards improving the way we manage our environment and our resources. At the same time, some of the big steps it has initiated are in danger of remaining mere half measures if a course correction is not carried out immediately,” CSE Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan said.
Correction and clarification: This article has been edited to more accurately reflect the findings and inferences of the study.