Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, has been in the limelight for cracking the whip on states ignoring green norms.
At the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay for a conference on climate change, Ramesh talks about the city’s development and environment in an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times.
The impression is that the MoEF is not keen on giving the Navi Mumbai airport environmental clearance. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan came back disappointed…
Navi Mumbai airport is not on fast track. There are no short cuts. When Chavan met me on March 11, I raised questions what the government is doing about the mangroves covering 400 acres of land there. The impact of diversion of rivers as to be studied. We’ve seen how Mumbai had to bear the brunt of Mithi [river] getting diverted and the flooding caused by heavy rainfall.
Will you let the airport meet the 2012 deadline?
The airport is on normal track, we are not against it. The chief minister told me that by the end of August they will submit the EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment]. Forty-five days after that, we’ll give it a fair look.
What worries you the most in this case?
Mangroves. They are absolutely essential and [are] the best bio-shields. We cannot afford to lose them. They cannot be replanted as such. I have asked CIDCO to look at Gujarat, where the area under mangroves has increased ten-fold in 15 years, and take assistance from them.
What about Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ)? The state government has sought clearances for private builders who want to construct in these zones.
Our new coastal zone regulations will be out by April end. I have told Chavan we will be flexible provided we are talking of slum redevelopment and housing for economically weak sections, but not through private developers. It should be a state government initiative with state government funding. I don’t mind if it is on public-private partnership basis where the state government is a driving partner.
And while you are restricting private builders in CRZ, what about private helipads?
There is no question of the MoEF giving permissions for any kind of private helipads considering the implications it has on noise, health and security.
Recently, you put an eight-month embargo on environmental clearances for projects in critically polluted areas. Maharashtra has eight of them?
Had we not put the moratorium the state government would not have taken us seriously. Chembur and Chandrapur are in bad state. The state government has eight months to come up with a viable, clear action plan. The central pollution control board is ready to help with it.
Finally, plastic waste management has become a problem in Mumbai. There are regulations but intermittent implementation.
Plastic is a problem because of the failure of the municipal solid waste [disposal] systems. Garbage segregation is not followed properly. We must take steps to tackle this problem.