Jairam Ramesh blazed new trail for Indian environment (2010 in Retrospect)

December 26th, 2010 - 2:37 pm ICT by IANS  

By Richa Sharma
New Delhi, Dec 26 (IANS) A no to Vedanta’s mega mining project, a moratorium on Bt Brinjal, a question mark on steel major Posco’s plans…The Indian environment scene suddenly hotted up in 2010 thanks to green minister Jairam Ramesh who was not afraid to take controversial decisions whenever he thought ecological balance was at stake.While there were enough bouquets for Environment and Forests Minister Ramesh through the year, the Nov 29-Dec 10 global climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, earned him brickbats when he proposed that all countries, including developing ones like India, must take binding commitments under appropriate legal forms” to cut emissions.

India has always said global warming is a problem caused by developed countries and it was up to them to reduce emissions. Ramesh was slammed by political parties and environmentalists who called it a “sell out” to developed countries.

However, defending India’s stand at Cancun, Ramesh said: “India has not changed its position. This nuancing of our position will expand negotiating options for us and give us an all-round advantageous standing.”

In May this year the country released its emissions inventory, the only developing country to do so till now.

India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions grew 58 percent between 1994 and 2007 to 1.9 billion tonnes, driven by growing energy and transportation sectors, making it the fifth largest emitter after the US, China, the European Union and Russia.

India released a climate change impact assessment report which projected that the country could be 2 degrees Celsius warmer by 2030 and the change will bring disruptions in the rain cycle, subsequently disturbing agriculture and causing other calamities.

On the domestic front, the environment ministry was at loggerheads with several other key ministries for blocking developmental projects in various states.

The environment ministry put a hold on South Korean steel major Posco’s $12-billion project in Orissa, the biggest foreign investment in the country, citing violations of environment and forest laws by the company.

The ministry showed the red signal to other ambitious plans like Vedanta’s mining project in Orissa and Lavasa hill city in Maharashtra for violating environmental laws.

The environment clearance to the Navi Mumbai airport, a key project of the civil aviation ministry, was delayed for quite some time on environmental grounds.

Taking a tough stand, Ramesh rejected the report of the country’s top six academies recommending limited release of Bt Brinjal and imposed a moratorium on the commercial release of Bt Brinjal Feb 9.

He created a furore by calling SUV drivers in India “criminal” as they drive on subsidised diesel and pollute the environment.

“We commend the environment minister for slamming the increase in SUVs and the use of cheap and toxic diesel in personal cars. The ministry gave tough decisions on Posco, Vedanta,” Anumita Roychoudhury, head of the Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) air pollution and urban mobility team, told IANS.

India launched dedicated environmental courts — National Green Tribunal (NGT) — to expedite the hearing of environmental cases in the country.

On the wildlife front, the government decided to re-introduce the cheetah in India. The big cat which became extinct in India many years ago will be brought from the Middle East and reintroduced at three sites.

India’s national animal, the tiger, was the talking point this year as several campaigns to save the big cat were launched. Only 1,400 tigers are estimated to be left in India.

The ministry was supposed to release the tiger census this year, but it has been postponed to next year.

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at richa.s@ians.in)

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