After a repeated outcry from activists, the Delhi high court extended the deadline for giving suggestions to the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 from June 30 to August 11. The contentious clauses in the draft include the regularisation of projects that violate environmental norms and shortening the time given to public hearings.
Environmentalists’ objections to the draft notification are significant considering the rate at which eco-sensitive land, such as forests, are being given up for infrastructure projects. An analysis by a PhD student from Columbia University, Vijay Ramesh, revealed that forest land nearly as big as Nagaland was approved or is pending to be approved for diversion between 2014 and 2020 for infrastructure projects such as irrigation, mining and encroachment regularisation.
Another recent study mapped out how linear infrastructure, such as roads, power lines, canals and pipelines, affect forest fragmentation. The study found that such infrastructure had caused a 6% rise in the number of small patches and a 71.5% fall in the number of large forest patches.
HC stays Karnataka wildlife board nod to Hubballi-Ankola railway line
The Karnataka wildlife board’s clearance for the 168-km Hubballi-Ankola railway line, which will run through the Western Ghats and requires felling of more than 1,57,000 trees, has been stayed by the Karnataka high court. The clearance had been given despite objections from senior members of the board in March this year. Most of the proposed project runs across forest land, according to a site inspection report submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The railway line will cut across the Bedthi Conservation Reserve, the Hornbill Conservation Reserve and the buffer zone of the Kali Tiger Reserve.
The controversial 240-km Thalassery-Mysuru line in Kerala is back in the news after the government presented an alternate proposed for a tunnel in the Bandipur and Nagarahole forests. The government hopes to give an economic boost to Kannur and Wayanad by providing a direct rail link from central Malabar to Mysuru and Bengaluru, much to the chagrin of environmentalists, who think the project will destroy the area’s rich biodiversity.
Confusion, uncertainty mark India’s coal block auction process
Almost a fortnight after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an auction of 41 coal mines for commercial mining, it has become glaringly apparent that the central and state governments where these coal mines are located are not on the same page regarding the move.
Jharkhand, which is home to 22 of the coal mines, has already moved the Supreme Court over the auction, alleging the Modi government has ‘taken the decision in haste, without taking state governments into confidence’. In Maharashtra, after strong criticism from the state’s environment minister Aaditya Thackeray and forest minister Sanjay Rathod, the Union coal ministry has decided to scrap Bander coal blocks, near the buffer and eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), from the auction list. Even Chhattisgarh has managed to get four blocks — Sayang, Madanpur (North), Morga (South) and Morga-II — in the Hasdeo Aranya area off the auction list as this region has been declared a Lemru elephant reserve. While downplaying the opposition to the auction, however, coal and mines minister Pralhad Joshi said the Centre was open to tweaking the auction on the request of state governments.
Activists allege conflict of interest in Etalin project cost-benefit analysis
The Arunachal Pradesh government, in response to a 25 June request by the Indian environment ministry request to submit a cost-benefit analysis for the Etalin hydropower project, has submitted an analysis prepared not by the state, but by Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Limited- the developer of the project. The analysis was requested following environmentalists protesting the loss of 270,000 trees at the thickly-forested junction of the Paleo-arctic, Indo-Chinese, and Indo-Malayan biogeographic regions. Environmentalists have now pointed out the blatant conflict of interest in the developer preparing the analysis, while project stakeholder Jindal Power has asserted that the analysis was done as per guidelines prescribed by the environment ministry.
Jamaica first Caribbean nation to submit upgraded climate plan to UN
Jamaica has become the first Caribbean nation and the 11th nation to submit a tougher climate action plan under the Paris Agreement to the United Nations (UN). The new plan addressed land use change, forestry emissions, and also committed to deeper emission cuts in the country’s energy sector. The country has now committed to reducing its emission levels by 25.4% below ‘business as usual’ levels by 2030, or even by 28.5% if it gets international support.
UN body postpones airlines’ climate obligations
Airlines are not obligated to offset their carbon emission growth until at least 2023. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) took the decision to postpone the obligations after the intervention of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which lobbied to change the baseline to measure emissions growth in order to reduce the sector’s carbon costs.
Germany: Coal to be phased out by 2038
Germany’s parliament, last friday, passed legislation that would end the use of coal in the country by 2038 as part of their decarbonisation roadmap. The legislation rests on two main features- the first establishing a legal framework for the gradual reduction of emissions while the second focuses on regional economies impacted by the move. A fund of EUR40 billion has been set aside to help coal producing regions absorb the economic impact.