Is the Green Tape killing Development: a pragmatic environmentalist’s take?

I prefer to read the pink papers as I feel they address more relevant issues of the day rather than the usual general papers which are prone to cover more Bollywood and Cricket than actual news for the people.  But the pink papers are so driven by financial data that they sometimes forget that the economy is not run in silos, but is dependent upon society and natural resources to run the economic growth engine. People and Ecology hold more value than sheer balance-sheet numbers. Capitalism runs on the ideological framework of ‘QSQT’ or Quarter se Quarter Tak. The Balance Sheet counts more than the Biosphere.

Well, India has massive developmental challenges too. We are short on power generation, and the coal which is needed to fuel the furnaces to rev up the turbines of growth is often not available. In Ruchir Sharma’s book ‘Break Out Nations’ an anecdote is shared that it is easier for Indian Mining Companies to procure coal in Indonesia than in India.  It is not available due to so called delay in regulatory clearances. This is the Green Tape which is blamed for the delay.  According to Public Intellectual Pratap Bhanu Mehta this is a perception as statistics show on the contrary, that India has a pretty lenient regulatory regime.

Cases from Orissa and Goa show that regulatory clearances are politically driven by motivation. The centre uses tribal rights as a whip to crack on the opposition lead Orissa government’s developmental agenda. Judicial Activism has lead to mining being banned in Bellary and Goa, although the BJP Government banned it earlier to the Supreme Court order. Environment is inherently political in nature as different ideologies with separate normative ends, conceptualize the utility of ecosystem services in a different context.

Recently, due to the negative criticism of the Green Ministry, the perception has been created that environmental clearances have been speeded up with Hydel Power Projects in Himachal and the North East given the ‘green’ signal. A recent incident of an environmental ministry official taking a bribe, does not help the reputation of the already over stretched body. The delays in clearances are due to the under-staffed employee roster of the Green Ministry, and not due to some malicious intent to derail the progress of the nation. The Single Window Clearance National Investment Board was a good idea in retrospect as the global investment climate is competitive. POSCO and Vedanta sites in Orissa illustrate this matter really well. In a rapidly urbanizing country with increasing living standards, such debates will be perennial in nature but we have to address them with rapid pace taking in to consideration the needs of the native community and the natural environment. This is a million rupee question, but we cannot afford to die from smog as the Middle Kingdom’s Forbidden City is now suffering.


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