India’s Ministry of Env & Forest Secretary speaks out

Please find enclosed more or less direct quotes from the reaction of Mr. T. Chatterjee, Secretary MoEF, to a variety of what I thought were excellent questions from the audience.  His response was rather incoherent, and for a long while he went into a unnecessarily defensive mode of claiming a lot of good work that he did in his ‘home’ state  of Andhra Pradesh.
I am sharing these raw notes so you get a flavour of what the thinking is on issues that we deal with day in and day out and throughout our lives.
These deliberations are a part of the Anil Agarwal Dialogues in Delhi organised by CSE.
Courtesy: Email sent by Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group
T. Chatterjee, IAS
Secy MoEFRot is growing and has been growing for 25 years now.

3 problems which are to be solve and 6 ways forward

clearance mechanisms cannot be independent of monitoring mechanism – a great presumption on the part of the particular body. When the ground truth is not known, or when the ground is not throwing up the truth, then there is a problem with the institutional response.

This situation will continue, i am afraid, till we touch these points: from village level, with equanimity, with equilibrium and without terrible chaos

Almost no limit to parameters that govern envtl clearance. I have found 168 parameters, but found only 8 being used in monitoring

Institutional clearance and monitoring are required, but they need to be separated. At least for the next 50 years.

Non-point water pollution (sewage and agricultural runoff into water).. what does not get cleared and monitored.. is a major polluter. 98% of water bodies polluted beyond bathing quality.

Without institutional mechanism of responsibility, cannot protect eco-sensitive zones.

WE have an obsession with carrying capacity. Do we know what it involves? PCBs say ambient standards are achieved form major pollutants, than carrying capacity is not disturbed. But the answer is this is not sufficient indication. REceptors are never taken into account, and thus a problem exists.

Distance factor:
Clearance decisions are made from far away from project site. When proponents do EIA (because govt has no money and resources.. it is actually possible to do it)

There are cases where baseline for the same site is done in ten diff ways based on pollution margin determined by proponent. Clearly demands need for public funding of baseline and EIA studies exists and is more than due.

Our philosophy since 1992 has been that once we dirty one area, we move on to dirty another area. This is the whole business of EIA

Load based local standards must be shared. If load of local receptors are calculated, then we can more accurately determine the limit to it being a receptor to the pollution load.

STates are vying with each other for investments.. Countries are vying with each other for investment. This has a systemic impact on decision making all the way down to the villages

Decentralising clearances – Give power to the local bodies to be involved in decision and take responsibility for clearances. PCBs must be involved in monitoring municipalities.

EIA is copied.  Sometimes they forget to change the pages in copied EIAs.  And the public does not understand EIAs.

WE don’t have the pressure power or lobby power that can change the system. You need to get together the lobby power to change the way things are.
Laws are there, we need to implement them.
CAMPA funds:  22000 crores accumulated and earning interest.  Cannot spend without SC clearance, which only provides upto 1000 crores annually.

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