New Delhi: From ordering the demolition of the Adarsh society for flouting coastal laws to stopping the controversial Vedanta project in Orissa, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has been hailed for his pro-active role in stopping projects. But it seems in recent times the Environment Minister has had a change of heart.
Some of the projects cleared by him in last six months include, Rs 54,000 crore Posco project in Orissa, 25000 acre project to build township in Lavasa, Rs 100 crore project to build a ropeway for pilgrims in Gir Forest and diversion of 600 hectares of forest land for Rs 5000 crore Chiria mines in Jharkhand.
The latest target of this clearing spree becomes the Maheshwar Dam, in which case the Environment Minister had ordered work to stop on February, 2010 for violating environment norms. But now in his latest order, the Minister has stated that construction on the Maheshwar Dam can go ahead.
In a candid confession, the minister himself admitted that he is forced sometimes to clear projects in the name of development.
"Unfortunately, many a times, I am forced to regularise because I have no option...because a refinery has been built or a steel plant has been built. So I feel guilty in some cases for actually having to condone the environmental violations," said Jairam Ramesh.
For a minister who has been in a tussle with several other ministries, like Kamal Nath for stopping highways cutting through forests, with Coal Minister Jaiswal for not allowing coal mining in dense forests, and the corporates for stopping mining projects, its obvious the pressure is building up.
So the question arises, is there pressure on the ministry to clear projects from the PMO and other ministries and is this the end of the road for the vigilante role being played by the Environment Ministry?