PUSHING FOR speedy environmental clearances for infrastructure and developmental projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday blamed “Urban Naxals’’ and “some global institutions and foundations’’ for stopping “modern infrastructure’’ projects that can raise the standard of living of people in the country.
He also cautioned against getting caught in the “conspiracies of such people” who, he said, have been able to influence “even the World Bank and higher judiciary”.
The Prime Minister was addressing via video link a conference hosted by Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav for state environment ministers and officials on “Environment, Forests and Climate Change” at Ekta Nagar in Narmada district, the site of the Sardar Sarovar dam that had faced years-long protests.
“I have seen that in the name of environmental clearance, how the establishment of modern infrastructure is hindered. Where you all are today — in Ekta Nagar — is an eye-opening example of this. How Urban Naxals, those who are anti-development, had stopped such a big project, the Sardar Sarovar dam. You will be surprised to know that the foundation of the dam was placed right after Independence… Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played a big role. Pandit Nehru had laid the foundation. But then the Urban Naxals arrived, so did people from across the world, and there was a lot of discussion on how this was an anti-environment project. This was the ‘abhiyan’ that was started, and this project was repeatedly stopped,’’ Modi said.
“The work that Nehruji started, that work was completed after I came (to power in Gujarat). So much of the country’s funds had already been wasted. And today, that same Ekta Nagar has become a pilgrimage for the environment. They (environmental activists) had spread so many lies. And these Urban Naxals are not silent even today. Even today, there are playing games. Their lies have been caught out — they are not willing to accept this and instead get political support from some quarters,’’ he said.
The Sardar Sarovar dam was the focal point of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, which was spearheaded by Medha Patkar and Baba Amte along with groups of farmers, tribals, environmentalists and rights activists.
“To stop the development of India, many global institutions and foundations latch on to such issues and create controversies in collaboration with Urban Naxals — and our projects get stopped. Without compromising the protection of the environment, we need to think in a balanced manner and not get caught in the conspiracies of such people who have been able to influence even the World Bank and the higher judiciary,’’ he said.
“Our attempt should be that we should not unnecessarily use the excuse of the environment to create obstacles in the path of ease of living and ease of business,” he said.
In this context, the Prime Minister said “there are over 6,000 environment clearances pending and another 6,500 forest clearance applications for projects pending with the states”.
“In this modern era, if clearances are given after three months, then the reason is something different. We should establish parameters and while protecting the environment, should bring speed in giving clearances,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister further said that for a long time the Environment Ministry got shaped more as a regulator. “I think that the role of the Environment Ministry is more as a promoter of the environment rather than as a regulator,’’ he said.
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Modi said that the Parivartan portal of the Environment Ministry, a single-window mode for all clearances, has reduced the rush of getting approvals. “Where environment clearance used to take more than 600 days eight years ago, it takes 75 days today’’, Modi said.
The Prime Minister also asked the states to expedite measures like the vehicle scrapping policy, and biofuel measures like ethanol blending.