In Focus

Published: Thursday 15 February 1996

The current budget stalemate in the US has led to environmental management paying a heavy price as all major environment related programmes have been stalled indefinitely for want of clearance of funds. The US Geological Survey has had to stop soil testing at hundreds of toxic waste sites - potential threats to community water systems and rivers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has had to send back nearly 2,400 of its 'Superfund workers' who help in the toxic waste cleanup at 609 sites across the nation.

The impasse has arisen because the Republicans advocate heavy slashes on medicare and environment programmes, while the government refuses to concede believing that these issues are at the core of American values. Says Al Gore, the US vice president, "They, want to balance the budget by unbalancing the environment." The US senate has already approved two bills which hit conservation and environment programmes deeply. The bill paying for EPA's functioning foresees cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars, which would have gone towards sewage and drinking water treatment plants.

Experts say tabs have been forced to dose down, new patients are being denied admission to experimental treatment programmes and thousands of scientists have failed to procure research money.

At the EPA, morale is as scarce as the funds. Facing the spectre of joblessness from May this year are nearly 3,000 to 5,000 federal employees if the Republican hill gets underway. The Republican-led Congress wants to strip the EPA of funds on grounds of being over- staffed. Even important natural sites and tourist attractions, like the Yellowstone National Park, have been forced to close too, much to the disgust of the local populace whose livelihood depends on the tourist pickings.

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