The Daily Star, 15 February 2010
We are surprised at the governments decision to issue environment clearance certificate for industries on privately owned lands inside the Bhawal National Park. That will in effect legalise about 300 industrial units already existing in the area and allow setting up of industrial units inside the national park in future. This is something that the present government had been opposed to in the past. A gazette to that effect was published in September of last year.
The decision is even more surprising because it has been given the green light by the National Committee on Environment. This is inconsistent with, and in clear breach of, the existing rules, which allow nothing but planting of trees only in the area.
We are surprised too at the governments u-turn from its earlier position on the matter that it took during its pervious tenure in office not to allow the national park from becoming another industrial zone, which it will now become. Given the oft-repeated statement of the government expressing its commitment to protect the environment at all costs this comes as a shock indeed.
Much machination had been done with regard to Bhawal National Park by the previous government including issuing government orders changing the character of the area from forest land to khas land so that it could be allotted to the cronies of people at the helm of affairs at that time.
We are told that only those units that are put up on private land will be given clearance. This is sheer travesty and we cannot but take issue with the forest authorities that the department would be able to protect the Bhawal forest from degrading. It is difficult to see how that would be possible when it could not even prevent encroachment and illegal utilisation of the forest area since it was declared a national park in 1982.
We find too the remarks of the DG department of environment, that setting up only green industries will be a precondition for establishing industrial units in the reserve forest, rather amusing. What is a green industry we wonder? And is there any industry that does not pollute the environment?
What is being done to the national forest is clearly unacceptable. Given the type of industrial units that are already established there, including dyeing factories, not only will we see a gradual depletion of the forest area, the local flora and fauna will be severely threatened also as a consequence.
We must say that the decision is in contrast to the PMs stance on climate change and protection of the environment. This is hardly illustrative of an environment friendly policy. We call upon her to stand by her commitment to safeguard the environment. It is public expectation that she would intervene and rescind the order.