Ministry closes its eyes as Dhamra port violates Forest Conservation Act!
(An Editorial by Greenpeace India)
Tata can save the turtles
It is now over 6 months since the Supreme Court issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the state government of Orissa asking them to respond to a legal petition over the violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 for the construction of the Dhamra Port in Orissa.
The application was filed by conservationists Bittu Sahgal (Editor, Sanctuary Asia), Romulus Whitaker (Madras Crocodile Bank) and Shekar Dattatri (award winning wildlife film maker and member of the National Board for Wildlife) and names the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Orissa state government as respondents.
If you think that six months is more than enough time for the Ministry to file a response, particularly under the dynamic Jairam Ramesh, you’re wrong! Several hearings later, neither Central nor state government has filed a written response before the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee. Why? Could it be because they have nothing to say to excuse their inaction? And because what they would say would irrevocably indict the port and its proponents – TATA Steel and L&T?
Quick recap: Documents obtained under the Right to Information Act have shown that the Ministry of Environment has been aware of a legal violation by the port as far back as 2000. The core of the case is that the entire port area is on designated forest land, and at no time was permission ever sought from the Central Government to divert this land for other uses, as required by the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
Despite several letters to the state government and the port company itself spanning 2000 to 2009, no action has been taken by any of the authorities concerned, even as construction commenced and then proceeded apace.
Since taking over a moribund ministry less than a year ago, Jairam Ramesh has stated repeatedly in public fora that his job is to ensure that environmental laws are adhered to and that no one – no matter how rich or powerful – is exempt. This is a perfect opportunity for Mr. Ramesh to prove that his words are more than mere statements. This huge legal violation is in itself a scandal, and the absolute refusal of the MoEF to act on it further compounds the offence!
So will Jairam Ramesh stand up for the law and direct his officials to file a response in the case, as directed by the Supreme Court? Or will he continue to turn his eyes to an ongoing legal violation?
Click here to ask Jairam Ramesh to Take a Stand!