Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday said he has not abandoned the ‘Go, No-Go’ policy of classifying forest areas but suggested a “compromise” that could allow coal mining on more land to meet the country’s needs.
Mr. Ramesh said he had made a few suggestions at the meeting of the Group of Ministers, chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday, and it was up to the GoM to take a final view on the issue.
“I have given some suggestion for bringing about a compromise. Let us see. It is up to the GoM to take a final view,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a CII function here.
At the same time he added, “I have not called for an abandonment of the ‘Go, No-Go’ concept, but I have said within the ‘Go, No-Go’ areas, how best to accommodate the needs of the country for coal production.”
Mr. Ramesh said with nuclear power becoming an area of concern and hydel projects facing opposition from public because of displacement issues, the focus was shifting more to thermal power to meet the energy requirements of the country.
The Minister said suggestions made by him would not be retrospective and would lead to more coal production.
The environment ministry had in 2009 classified the country’s heavily forested regions into ‘Go’ and ‘No-Go’ regions and a ban was imposed on mining in No-Go zones through an indicative categorisation on environmental grounds.
The move had sparked off an intense inter-ministerial debate with the Coal, Power and Steel ministries pitching against Mr. Ramesh.
The ‘No-Go’ classification by the Ministry had disallowed mining in 203 coal blocks, having a potential of 660 million tonnes of production a year.
Interacting with the industry players who raised the issue of stalled projects on environmental grounds, Mr. Ramesh made it clear that as long as laws are there it is his duty to enforce them.
“If any project is in trouble, it is because that project has wilfully or unconsciously broken a law of the land whether, it is environment law, forest law or coastal protection law.
“As long as laws are there, my duty is to enforce them. If I am enforcing it selectively, arbitrarily, haul me up. But don’t haul me up for enforcing the law,” he said.
Mr. Ramesh agreed with the industry that there must be clarity and consistency in environmental laws. “If clarity and consistency are there, nobody would mind observing the law,” he said.
He also said if the green laws have outlived their utility, they could be changed like it was done in the case of the Coastal Regulation Zone notification of 1991.
“Laws enacted should always be subject to review every 15-20 years,” Mr. Ramesh said.