For articulating its starting premise, NEP might have used, rather than cause-impact framework for degradation, one of conflict-resolution between environmental and development objectives, as is central to development planning law – which finds no mention in NEP… We believe that the key environmental challenge is disregard / subversion of existing law and that new policy that fails to address this is doomed to suffer from identical subversions and is, therefore, quite unnecessary… designed to let-appear “evolving and flexible policy framework” to substitute conflict-resolving law – for pursuit of illegal deleterious development in exclusive “spirit of partnership” … No other hypothesis fits the reality of recent development distortions in Delhi amidst which NEP discourse has been going on.

Secretary, MoEF Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110003

Sub: Comment on National Environment Policy

Ref: Prior letters of 22.04.04, 20.06.04, 20.07.04, 04.08.04, 01.09.04, 06.09.04, 15.09.04, 18.09.04 (eml) and 23.09.04 to MoEF and related letters, eg, of 15.11.03, 07.07.04, 17.10.04, 24.10.04, and s.11A and Parliamentary Committee Public Notice responses, PIL, etc, referred therein

Sir,

We are writing this to you in context of prior letters and since request for doc / html version of NEP returned no response from the response eml on MoEF website. MPISG is only a synergy platform of those pursuing, only through due processes of law, only their entitlements under existing law. We are making an exception in commenting through non-statutory process on policy, only because illegalities on Delhi ridge and riverbed (“incomparable entity” (NEP p.8), protected by Delhi Development Act / Master Plan and EPA / CGWA Notification) – continuing despite letters under reference, unchecked by authorities and unprotested by environmental NGOs amidst NEP discourse – make for genuine apprehension that NEP and its so-called criticism are serving to erode statutory entitlements.

NEP says that despite existing policy, “need for a comprehensive policy statement has been evident for some time in order to infuse a common approach … our understanding of the centrality of environmental concerns in development has sharpened, there is also need to review the earlier objectives, policy instruments, and strategies” (Preamble, para-2). It is not clear which approaches are to be infused with commonality and at what denominator, which objectives / instruments / strategies were reviewed and with what inference, etc. As such, there is no basis to comment on NEP content beyond premise-statement articulating “our understanding” of “key environmental challenges: causes and impacts” (p.3). We disagree with the approach to this articulation. Rather than cause-impact framework for degradation, NEP might have used for it one of conflict-resolution between environmental and development objectives, as is central to development planning law which – despite MoEF ENVIS center at SPA, MoEF involvement in World Bank DUEIIP and MCD-USAID-NIUA byelaw reform, etc – finds no mention in NEP. Nor does it find mention in the criticism of NEP by NGOs, who have now urged NAC to “instruct” MoEF to extend deadline for finalization to allow more consultation for consistency with NCMP – in effect, “legitimizing” need for NEP in context of NCMP. We, however, believe that not only does NCMP not call for NEP (NEP did not feature in priorities identified by NAC or announced by PM and UPA-Left CC has not suggested it), it precludes such policies, being itself in nature of broad national policy and including, for development issues that NEP covers by stretching its “centrality of environmental concerns” premise, direct commitments that can be better operationalized via instruments other than an NEP drafted before NCMP. The question of need for NEP, according to us, remains wide open. We believe that the key environmental challenge is disregard / subversion of existing law and that new policy that fails to address this is doomed to suffer from identical subversions and is, therefore, quite unnecessary.

This question on need for NEP was raised in (unanswered) eml of 18.09.04 to request also names of planning experts involved – since it was “prepared through a process of extensive consultation with experts… also documented” (p.3), but chapter-6 on process only says “(To be documented on completion of the formulation process)” (p.39). This “secrecy” is contrary to NEP’s stated imperative, viz, “This dynamic requires an evolving and flexible policy framework with a built in system for monitoring” (Preamble, para-3). By NEP’s own surmise, “this dynamic” is untenable without monitoring. We posit there is no inclination to monitor and, in reverse causality, “this dynamic” is designed to let-appear “evolving and flexible policy framework” to substitute conflict-resolving law – for pursuit of illegal deleterious development in exclusive “spirit of partnership” (Preamble, p 2-3). No other hypothesis fits the reality of recent development distortions in Delhi amidst which NEP discourse has been going on.

For riverbed, options were sought for urban agriculture and community-owned eco-visitation after shifting encroachments, including upcoming Biodiversity Park with NGOs, IT Park by DMRC and GNCTD (ENVIS Node), etc. (Suggestion for relocating to Safdarjang was made in context of redevelopment ideas by NGOs, etc). Clarification about EIA for these projects in view of July 2004 amendment to EIA notification was also sought. On 18.09.04 Public Notice inviting objections to proposal to “regularize” IT Park was issued. Instead of these authorities are considering a “note” that NGOs, etc, with Safdarjang ideas sent PMO on metro ideas, amidst plans to display at Trade Fair a model of IT Park, construction on which continues. On 23.10.04 a news report had authorities saying the Court’s refusal to stay Akshardham had cleared all doubts about location of Games Village, regardless of those raised in about 200 MPISG s.11A objections against IT Park, besides 1700 against identically illegal Sultangarhi project in ridge that Court had stopped in 2002 with order for enquiry (not conducted) to prevent perpetuation of identical illegalities.

In 2003 we filed PIL against illegal ridge projects – Malls, Biodiversity Park, GNCT hospital, Mandi, etc – starting despite Sultangarhi order of 2002. Notice was issued on 22.09.04, after ten months of government-NGO efforts for Biodiversity Park helping sell-well Malls in adjoining 92 Ha (near JNU (ENVIS Node) and plot of SPA (ENVIS center, with faculty NGO also ENVIS node)), released from purview of development law by their PIL in 1997 – with fresh PIL on weak grounds against Malls and with petition to CEC to declare Biodiversity Park area as forest, whereupon we wrote to CEC to draw attention to our PIL, to seek hearing, to ask clarification about reports of it ‘clearing’ Malls, etc. Clarification about EIA was also sought. Attention to illegal boring, quarrying, etc, continues to be drawn, with work, like Mall advertisements, continuing even after the Court has issued notice. On 23.10.04 a news report has said the Biodiversity Park will be opened to public in a year.

These illegal ridge and riverbed projects have entailed evictions, including of those monitoring environment-damaging illegalities, with “resettlement” in places like Bawana where many, including children, died. Our court cases, s.11A responses, representations (such as letter about Bawana brand of environmentalism, later forwarded by President’s Secretariat, NAC and CVC) did not prevent Pushta-like eviction of old communities from ridge or surveys for eviction from riverbed. Housing-rights NGOs seem synergistically silent about these. In Asola-Bhatti sanctuary, where GNCT allotted land to an (ENVIS Node) NGO, other NGOs have a grant from another NGO to document eviction resistance. No activist or authority is inclined to raise or address the issue of GNCT closing non-conforming industries from its non-conforming Secretariat on riverbed, with irrelevant references to environment. A news report of 26.10.04 says Bhure Lal Committee has now approached Supreme Court on mixed land use (subject of Public Notice, High Court PIL and Supreme Court matters relying on development law) on tenuously related grounds of pollution.

On the ground beneath rarefied “spirit of partnership” discourse on “evolving and flexible policy” it is becoming increasingly clear that “common approach” of cross-sectoral policy to ride rough-shod over problem-solving development planning law is serving no purpose other than provide legitimacy to illegal development pursuits in select partnerships by marginalizing legitimate stakes and lawful processes for equal participation. Its inertial continuation is contrary to the mandate for change.

For disregard of statutory guarantees of intra-generational equity alone, we have no confidence in NEP promises of inter-generational equity. For the rest, MoEF could demonstrate its seriousness – about ‘evolving and flexible policy framework’ by placing on its web full details of NEP process and all comments and then invite comment on need for it; about ‘system for monitoring’ by clarifying responsibilities of Delhi-based ENVIS centers/nodes vis-à-vis local issues; and about participatory environment management beyond policy-making for it by responding also to those who prefer to engage within the ambit of existing law rather than in line with new-policy discourse.

We are posting this comment on the web and will eml the link to the response eml id on MoEF website.

Gita Dewan Verma, MPISG Planner

To support planned development. To oppose unplanned development. To protect our future.