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MOEF to get more hands to fight corruption

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RECRUITMENT Environment ministry to open new offices, employ more people for transparent project approval process

More people will get jobs in the environment ministry to improve transparency and reduce corruption in the project approval process.

The ministry of environment and forests is mandated under law to decide on projects for four clearances — environment, forest, coastal and wildlife. With economy growing at an average of 7.5-8% in recent years, clearances to projects has become rather controversial mainstay of the ministry.

To make the entire clearance process transparent and less cumbersome, the ministry has come out with series of decisions with specific time-lines for its implementation in forest and environment clearance divisions.

The ministry has decided to open four new regional offices in the next six months and start electronically to eliminate reasons for delay in processing and reduce human interface, especially for forest clearances.

For this, the ministry has decided to create additional posts of Deputy Inspector General Forests and Additional Inspector General of Forests in the next six month along with adequate support staff.

The rules and procedures would be streamlined to reduce official discretion that can aid and abet corruption.

“We will have a system in next two months where projects would be processed in order of their receipt except projects of strategic and public importance,” a senior ministry official said.

In addition, there would be a comprehensive check list of documents to be submitted while applying and objective norms to deal with violations of the approval conditions. The ministry will also come out with a comprehensive policy in four months on monitoring of the conditions imposed for approving a project, including a provision of mandatory disclosure by project proponents in public domain of self-monitoring.

To make the entire forest clearance process transparent, the ministry has decided to place entire agenda and minutes of the Forest Advisory Committee in public domain within a stipulated period and have an electronic system to refer to maps and other data before deciding on projects to diver forest land.

“The minutes of the meeting will have to be prepared to prevent any possibility of post meeting change in decisions,” an official note circulated by the ministry said. In case of environment clearances, the ministry would upload all documents related to projects on its website to bring more transparency. The ministry also wants that the decision on the projects should be given as per the timeperiod specified in the Environment Impact Assessment notification of 2006.

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Ban asbestos exports to India: Aus Senator to Canada

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Australia, which has banned the use of asbestos, should step in and ask Canada to halt the exports of the silicate minerals to India where it is widely used, a Labor Senator has said.

Senator from Tasmania Lisa Singh, the first person of South Asian decent to be elected to the Australian Parliament and chairperson of an all-party group on asbestos, was on a visit to India recently where she met anti-asbestos activists.

According to reports, Singh has expressed hope that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government should make its views known to the Canadians.

“I think that we have to really lead by our own example and really make it very clear that this is simply not on. I mean this is a developed nation, Canada knows better than this. “Canada won’t use asbestos themselves but they are quite happy to export it to developing countries to you know, areas where they know they’ve got that open market because the safety regulations in those countries are not as strong,” she said.

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Interaction between Trade Unions / Civil Society and Australian Senator Lisa Singh July 18, 2012

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An interaction between Australian Senator Lisa Singh, Trade Unions and civil society was held at the constitution club of India. The interaction was jointly organised by Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI), BWI and IndustriALL. Sh Sudharshan Rao gave a brief background of use of Asbestos in India. Mr Rao informed about the Kerala Human rights Commission judgement which ordered the schools to remove Asbestos Cement Sheets from their facility; however the order has still not been implemented. He also informed that the strategy is to take small steps i.e. we try and introduce a ban in one state and then move to other states to eventually achieve a national ban. The first state targeted is Kerala where a memorandum was submitted in April to the chief minister. Next month a similar program is planned in Odisha. Read more

Calls for Canada to ban asbestos exports to India

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TONY EASTLEY: Given Australia’s experience with asbestos, the Gillard Government is being urged to step in and tell Canada not to export its asbestos to India.

Quebec’s provincial government recently provided a multi-million dollar loan to re-open a local asbestos mine.

While the mine’s white asbestos is regarded as too dangerous to use in Canada, it’s likely to be shipped to India where use of asbestos is still widespread.

With more on the story here’s Matt Peacock.

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Attack on activists Ramesh Agarwal and Akhil Gogoi condemned

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9th July, 2012, Bangalore: mines, minerals and PEOPLE (mm&P) condemned the attack on Ramesh Agarwal and Akhil Gogoi, in its national Executive Council meeting on 8th July in Bangalore.

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Fair laws sought for mining sector

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Sreedhar Ramamurthy, chairperson, Mines, Minerals and People, an alliance of groups working among communities affected by mining across the country, has underlined the need for fair laws in the mining sector to achieve sustainable development.

He was speaking at the screening of The Curse of Karna, a documentary on mining-affected areas in Odisha and Jharkhand in the backdrop of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, which is under the consideration of Parliament.

Mr. Sreedhar said that some progressive clauses in the draft Bill proposed in 2010 were diluted when a new draft was introduced last year. “According to the new draft, local people will get only 26 per cent royalty on profits made by mining companies. This will lead to mining companies making profits up to Rs.17,000 crore and the State getting only up to Rs. 3,000 crore as royalty. Though the fifth schedule had some progressive clauses, the Empowered Group of Ministers diluted them under pressure from the mining lobby,” he said. Read more