Chaos reigned at the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) on November 30, 2004, the last day for receiving comments on the draft National Environment Policy 2004 (nep). On the same day, the ministry also organised consultations with 32 non-governmental organisations (ngos) on the draft policy. While only seven-eight of the invited NGOs turned up, an equal number of uninvited NGOs were outside the door, clamouring to get in. Eventually, two participating NGOs also walked out to protest the process in which the policy was being formulated.
Prodipto Ghosh, secretary, MoEF, who was chairing the meeting, told Down To Earth that the uninvited NGOs could not be called in because it was "a formal government consultation and not a public meeting". Anyone who wished to share their views was welcome to do so in writing to the ministry, he added. At the meeting, Leo Saldanha of the Environment Support Group, Bangalore, requested that the NGOs outside should be let in. "Most of those invited have not respected the invitation, while those who want to participate are not being allowed to do so," he reasoned. But Ghosh did not relent and Saldanha walked out of the meeting, leaving a shredded copy of the draft policy behind.
A day later, a group of nearly 95 NGOs issued a press statement condemning the contents of the draft policy and the process employed to frame it. But Ghosh says the process is "as laid down by the government". The process, including information on those who were consulted, will be detailed in the policy when it is sent to the cabinet for approval, he adds. Meanwhile, the MoEF has extended the deadline for receiving comments on the draft policy to December 15, 2004.
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