I cannot be minister for stoppages: Ramesh

Faced with criticism of blocking developmental and infrastructure projects, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Thursday said he is not a "minister for stoppages".

New Delhi: Faced with criticism of blocking
developmental and infrastructure projects, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Thursday said he is not a "minister for stoppages".

"I cannot become a minister for stoppages," he said in the
Rajya Sabha, adding he cannot put on hold projects where half
the work is completed.

Giving clarifications on a Calling Attention Motion on
environmental impact of big dams in the North-Eastern states,
Ramesh said, projects in which 50 per cent work was completed
cannot be stopped but mitigation measures can be taken up.

"When a project is underway, all I can do is to insist on
mitigation measures, minimising the impact on environment," he
said.

The Environment Ministry has recently run into conflict
with different ministries relating to development projects
including roads and airports over the issue of environmental
clearance.

Referring to the ongoing hydel projects in the border
state of Arunachal Pradesh, Ramesh said, "from energy and
strategic points of view we need to develop hydel projects
there."

Around a dozen hydro power projects are in different
stages of progress in Arunachal Pradesh, on which China lays
its claim.

Ramesh said building these projects would also be
important for India`s strategic negotiating power with China.

Referring to the Siang river project, he said, "If we do
not develop hydel power on Siang river, our negotiating
capacity with China will be affected."

On members` concerns over the impact of hydel projects in
Bhutan, he said they also "fulfil our strategic necessity."
Referring to the demand for scrapping the Lower Subansiri
project located near North Lakhimpur on the Assam-Arunachal
border, he said, "I cannot give a clear and categorical
assurance that the the project will be stopped but I can give
an assurance that all recommendations of the expert group on
how to minimise its environmental impact will be implemented."

Ramesh would be going to Guwahati on September 10 to meet
the members of the expert group which had suggested not to go
for the Subansiri project. He would also have consultations
with the NHPC implementing the project to find an acceptable
solution.
For all future projects in Arunachal and Assam, Ramesh
said comprehensive scientific studies on environmental impact
would be carried out and their recommendations accepted.

To a question, he said the government was not adequately
sensitive to environmental concerns and biodiversity.

Bureau Report