New environment minister Anil Madhav Dave will be expected to continue with the project approval pace of his predecessor Prakash Javadekar, but that is only half the story.
The biggest challenge for Dave, a passionate environmentalist who once rafted the course of the Narmada, would be to restore the faith of environment lovers in his ministry, which had come in for flak under Javadekar’s two-year tenure.
The Javadekar era saw a paradigm shift from being pro-environment to becoming a pro-industry ministry in the name of ‘ease of doing business’ while reducing community participation in environmental regulation, considered a bottleneck for growth.
Data released by the Centre for Science and Environment in May showed that about 30% of forest land diverted during Javadekar’s tenure was for mining purpose and rejection rate of projects in wildlife areas dramatically fell in the NDA regime as compared to the UPA’s 10 years.
Even if he wants, Dave may not be able to change any of this as it was driven by the Prime Minister’s Office.
That includes implementing online emission and affluent monitoring for industries, bills for disbursement of Rs 42,000 crore compensatory afforestation fund to the states and enhancing penalties for loss to environment and new rules for management of waste and plastic.
In addition, the Paris climate deal agreed on in December 2015 has to be ratified by this winter and its implementation rolled out.“I will continue with the work started by Javadekar,” Dave said, while taking charge on Wednesday. “Development and environment go together. They are not against each other.”
While the 59-year old Dave has worked on sustainable water and environment in Narmada valley, running a technical ministry with an annual budget of less than Rs 2,000 crore is a different ball game.
The commerce graduate from Indore with no prior administrative experience will have to bear in mind that the job he has taken has been highly controversial and no environment minister in the last ten years has been able to complete his term.