Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday said the Modi government was mulling to disband the National Green Tribunal (NGT). “We are going through difficult years and the dissolution may have disastrous results,” said the former Environment and Forests Minister who set up the quasi-judicial body. Ramesh, who launched his book “Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature” at the Heritage Club here in Meghalaya on Tuesday night, said the government was treating environment as a regulatory burden and not a societal obligation. “They do not see it as something that is essential for India’s present and its future. They see the environment as a bottleneck in the ease of doing business,” he said. Ramesh had already filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the changes brought in by the Finance Act 2017, modifying the terms of appointment and functioning in various statutory tribunals including the NGT. “Dilution of the independence of the NGT is a direct dilution of the fundamental right to a clean environment and a balanced ecosystem,” he said. On the long-pending uranium project in Meghalaya, the Congress leader said the government cannot brush aside the proposed mining project.
“We should try to marry economic growth and environmental protection but there will be cases, instances and conflict between the two and when there is conflict we must make conscious choices,” he said. Moreover, he said “the solution (to uranium mining) lies in political courage to take the tough decision required to protect the environment and not just build dams, highways, power stations and factories as it does not constitute towards sustainable development”. Meghalaya is the third uranium-rich state in the country after Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. The state accounts for 16 per cent of India’s uranium reserves.
The proposed open-cast uranium mining in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district has been hanging fire since 1992 after several groups expressed fears of radiation impact on human health and environmental degradation. The Uranium Corp of India Ltd (UCIL) had pegged Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah project in Meghalaya for Rs 1,100 crore. The ores are spread over a mountainous terrain in deposits varying from eight to 47 metres from the surface in and around Domiasiat, 135 km from here. The UCIL plans to produce 375,000 tonne of uranium ore a year and process 1,500 tonnes a day.