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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chorus against FAC members gets louder

MONDAY, 20 AUGUST 2012 23:53 PIONEER NEWS SERVICE | NEW DELHI The newly-constituted Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has kicked up a controversy over the choice of two of its independent members, who have been alleged to have a clear interest in mining and hydroelectricity. It’s their conflict of interest that has led environmentalists to be up in arms against the duo’s selection. The FAC is the statutory body that decides on key issues related to diversion of forest land for road, mining and other development projects in the country. In a letter (dated August 20), written to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, a large number of environmentalists have urged her to immediately cancel the appointments of two of its members KP Nyati and Prof NP Todria as independent members of the FAC and reconstitute the committee. Himanshu Thakkar, from the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, pointed to the fact that since 1992 Nyati has been part of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), representing the interests of the industry in one way or the other. He is the head of Sustainable Mining Initiative, an outfit of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries. NP Todria is a professor from Garwhal University, in Uttarakhand, who has served as an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultant for hydropower companies. The environmentalists alleged Todria had publicly supported the construction of dams on the Ganges upstream. The letter to the Environment Minister states that their “appointment as members of FAC is inappropriate and would be disastrous for the remaining forests of India”. “A bare perusal of the Supreme Court order clearly shows that both the ‘non official members’, given their background, are clearly not independent experts. Mining or other development project cannot be said to be allied discipline of forestry, as underlined in the given provisions. Allied disciplines may be like, water harvesting, wildlife protection, bio-diversity etc,” the letter said. Kishor Rithe, member of NTCA committee to inspect projects on mining and thermal power projects in and around tiger reserves besides member of Standing Committee of NBWL, stated, “Experts with high credentials in forest and wildlife sector who can understand the mining, industry proposals should be placed on FAC to independently judge the projects.” The Environment Minister has, however, clarified that the choice of the independent members constituting the committee has been done as per the directives of the Supreme Court.

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