Moving on: The government will allow 7 hydropower projects to complete construction despite a flash flood wreak havoc recently | Photo: Business Standard

Govt to allow 7 hydel projects in Uttarakhand to complete construction

Despite protests by environmentalists and weeks after a flash flood in the region, the Centre will allow the completion of seven under-construction hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. The decision taken by the Jal Shakti ministry will be relayed to the Supreme Court, which is hearing a matter on these unfinished projects, Hindustan Times reported an anonymous top official as saying. Union minister Prakash Javadekar had tweeted that sanctioned projects will be allowed to go ahead, but no new projects in the Upper Ganga will be given a nod.  

Environment ministry moves to ease public hearing guidelines for legacy mining cases

The Indian government can now skip public hearings for projects that have already received an environment clearance, as per the green ministry’s new order. The order is primarily aimed at projects that received clearance under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 1994, after a public hearing was conducted. This order seeks to help make functioning easier for legacy mining projects.

16 states cut forest department budgets this year: Green ministry to Parliament

Sixteen states cut their annual forest department budgets in the current financial year. The money allocated in these budgets is spent on increasing forest cover and conservation efforts. Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar shared, as part of his written response to a Parliament question that West Bengal reported the highest percentage decline in budgetary allocation for the forest department followed by Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. Data for most Union Territories was unavailable. 

The environment ministry also eased the rules for eco-tourism projects, allowing them to build non-permanent structures in areas that were protected without the central government’s permission. The absence of a clear definition of non-permanent structures was a cause for concern, environmentalists said. The decision was taken in a forest advisory committee meeting in February.  

In the same meeting, it was decided that the construction of zoos on forest land will be deemed ‘forestry activity’. Experts warned that this move will increase footfall in forest lands and encourage safari rides. Both these decisions are being seen as a part of the ministry’s broader aim of easing rules under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

Andhra Pradesh HC stays demolition of villages affected by Polavaram irrigation project

In a temporary win for locals, the Andhra Pradesh high court stayed the demolition of houses in villages that fall in the path of the Indira Sagar Polavaram irrigation project. The court was hearing a petition filed against the demolition of these settlements in the Schedule V areas in the east and west Godavari districts of the state. The project was envisioned as a storage scheme that aimed to build a dam between the east and west Godavari districts. 

According to an environmental assessment impact report, 276 villages with a total population of 177,175 would be affected by the project. Around 15 villages in the region have already been demolished, according to the petition. The lawyer for the respondent Andhra Pradesh Water Resource Department, however, told the court no villages had been demolished. The court stayed demolition until the department was able to produce the lawyer’s reply in writing. 

Vague net-zero targets compromise Paris Agreement, warn scientists

Even as countries race to announce their ‘net-zero’ ambitions, the definition of the term differs enormously among nations, according to scientists. According to a United Nations estimate, 65% of global CO2 emissions fall under such pledges. But scientists from Imperial College London, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs and the University of New England have warned about this lack of transparency in these declarations. Researchers found the plans put up to reach ‘net-zero’ by nations hard to compare. For example, while the EU’s net-zero announcement targets all greenhouse gases by 2050, China’s net-zero plan focuses on balancing only CO2 emissions by 2060. Some nations, according to the researchers, also aim to reach the target not by reducing their emissions, but by compensating for them with offsets. Without transparency, the evaluation of these targets is difficult, the study noted.  

Green Climate Fund deemed ‘toxic workplace’; whistleblowers urge US to use its money elsewhere until issues are fixed

US climate envoy John Kerry promised to “make good” on a $2 billion pledge to the UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF). But a recent GCF staff survey revealed a loss of confidence in the fund’s senior management. Three employees who quit the GCF in 2019 and 2020 told Climate Change News of a “lack of integrity” in vetting projects and abuses of power, which led to a toxic work environment in the organisations. Whistleblowers told the publication that unless these matters were fixed, the US should direct this money to elsewhere.  

Pandemic effect: UN biodiversity summit pushed for second time to October 2021

The UN COP15 biodiversity summit was delayed for a second time. It was scheduled to be held in China in May after being pushed from its October 2020 event date because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) cited the pandemic as the reason for further delay and the summit has now been pushed to October 2021. The meet aims to put together an accord for nature, along the lines of the Paris climate accord.

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