A new report from my pal Nitin Sethi at the Times of India seems to illustrate India's attitude toward environmental impact studies for industrial projects.
As it turns out, the government was keeping recommendations made by one of its own panels under wraps, because the economic impact of implementing them would be massive, Sethi writes.
Among other measures, a Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) panel has recommended that India ban mining and further industrial growth in nearly 45 districts across five of the country's most economically vibrant states -- Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu. Moreover, it recommended that mining and further industrial development be banned altogether from the state of Goa, an ecologically sensitive and interesting area inland as well as a party spot for tourists and Bollywood types along the coast.
I've already noted reports that India has faked figures on its surviving forests, to make timber plantations equivalent to natural growth, as well as fudged Environmental Impact Assessments for major projects -- sometimes cutting and pasting from documents prepared for totally different projects in other countries. And you may recall from a blog post or two in the past that the ouster of Jairam Ramesh -- formerly environment minister, now head of rural development -- was viewed as a creative solution to his dogged insistence on taking the green clearance regime seriously, instead of a license to extort money from corporations.
In this context, it's ironic that India makes so much noise about the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy -- though its victims, and those responsible for their plight, must not be forgotten. If you added up all of India's daily environmental tragedies, from illegal mining to the flouting of pollution norms and on and on, the death toll might well add up to a Bhopal a year.
And hardly anybody seems to care much about that.