Do tribals and local people have a say in environmental decision making?
The reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that the Prime Minister's Office put pressure on the Ministry of Environment to ease environmental safeguards to allow expansion in coal mining projects.
The series of letters from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Environment Ministry obtained in the reply show that in order to speed up the process the PMO asked the environment ministry to relax the environmental rules for coal mining projects, especially the clause of public hearing for project expansion. The letter dated October 2012 asked the ministry to do away with the need of public hearing to get the environmental clearance in those cases where 25 per cent expansion is to be done. Following the letter, the environment ministry eased the rule and allowed the companies to skip public hearing for obtaining green nod in case of 25 per cent expansion.
It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court has upheld the rights of tribals to decide whether mining should be allowed on their forest or not in order to involve them in environmental decision making.