'Expediting green clearances could damage natural infrastructure'

Kolkata, Jan 13: Expediting the forest and environmental clearances for developmental projects "without due diligence" could lead to "damage to natural infrastructure" like forests, water bodies and loss of habitat, environmentalists said here on Saturday.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had on Friday said the government would expedite forest and environmental clearance issues that bog down strategic projects and that relaxations would be obtained to facilitate completion of projects in national interest.

"Expediting forest and environmental clearances without due diligence is like burning the lifeboats on a sinking Titanic. This will damage natural infrastructure," well-known environmentalist Bittu Sahgal told IANS at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2018.

"There is a gross misunderstanding of the people who want development of India. They think that the infrastructure made by human beings is the infrastructure. The truth is every pond, forest is the infrastructure.

"There is no point of destroying one infrastructure that sequestrates carbon, keeps flood in control, feeds people, and replacing it with cemented infrastructure which destroys those things which feed us. It seems to me it will not work."

Addressing a session "Green Alert", Sahgal said the entire "economic edifice" sits on a "bedrock of a stable ecology" and the rise Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is linked to good monsoon.

"The good monsoon facilitating higher GDP means the entire economy depends upon natural systems that work. But, the natural systems are being attacked," he said.

According to him, as people keep talking about commercial and an economic growth, country's "natural capital is being depleted at an alarming rate".

He accused economists and politicians of deluding the ecology and devaluing forests and natural resources.

Ravi Kant Sinha, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife & Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal, said: "Any developmental project within forests means loss of forests and habitat.

"For example, even development of a canal through a forest, which requires a small amount of a forest land, endangers the habitat (for wild animals) as they may not be able to cross the canal."

Emphasising on the need for "democratic equity" through restoring of ecosystems and equitable justice for distribution of resources, Sahgal said: "Our generation is colonising the younger generation as inter-generational colonisation."

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