Myth of compliance

By Aarthi Sridhar
Published: Friday 15 January 2010

imageReport>>  Calling the Bluff • by Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon • Kalpavriksh • Price Rs 150

In 2005, Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon authored a report, Eleven Years of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 1994; How Effective Has It Been? A detailed analysis of the working of the environmental impact assessment (eia), the publication highlighted people’s disappointment and frustration with the decision-making process of development projects.

In their latest report, Kohli and Menon examine if the government has been up to the mark in monitoring the environmental conditions it set while clearing projects.

The report’s title is a dead give-away of the shape of things to come. But make no mistake. There is a lot of rigour in the way Menon and Kohli “call the bluff”.

The two Kalpavriksh activists interview environment ministry officials and dig out reports on monitoring mechanisms, using the sometimes frustrating procedure of the right to information (rti) act, to present readers with startling revelations. Sample this: In the 20 years between 1986 and 2006 the environment ministry cleared 4,016 projects, but in the two years since the new Environment Impact Notification of 2006, some 2,016 projects were cleared. Menon and Kohli show the lack of coordination between monitoring agencies. There is also a section on the absurdity of conditions themselves being modified to ensure compliance.

In one rti response, the environment ministry officials admit there is no database on the extent of compliance of the 6,000-odd projects cleared by the ministry.

The authors do not believe reforming monitoring will improve matters. The faultlines, they believe, lie in the eia process. A January 2009 amendment to the 2006 eia notification vindicates their views: it allows projects to expand on the basis of a self-certification that expansion will not increase or enhance pollution loads or environmental impact.

The bluff has surely been called.

Aarthi Sridhar is with Dakshin Foundation in Bengaluru

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