New Delhi: The government may soon demand that industrial projects obtain biodiversity clearance, along with forest and environmental approvals, according to environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan.
“There is no biodiversity clearance now,” Natarajan said on Friday in New Delhi at a conference organized to discuss the Conference of Parties (CoP-11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity that India is hosting in Hyderabad from 1-19 October. “There are efforts to include it (biodiversity clearance) as a part of either environment clearance or forest (clearance) or of both.” The minister didn’t elaborate.
India hasn’t been able to build infrastructure fast enough to cope with the needs of an expanding economy because environmental approvals have become harder to come by, besides other hurdles such as land acquisition.
Biodiversity—an overarching term that includes the variety of ecosystems and living organisms such as animals, plants, their habitats and their genes—already forms a part of environmental and forest clearances to some extent, said Seema Arora, executive director at the Confederation of Indian Industry’s sustainability centre.
“It is already a part of environment impact assessment under which project proponents are supposed to look at the impact of the project on the flora and fauna in the area (where the project is being set up),” she said.
A dialogue is needed on whether the existing biodiversity component was deep enough and what needs to be done further, Arora said.
Not all projects harm biodiversity, said O.S. Tyagi, senior director (environment) at the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
“Telecom projects do not harm the biodiversity, but other big projects like coal mining and hydropower projects might require this clearance,” he said.
Making biodiversity clearance a requirement would be the right move because as of now, there isn’t enough due diligence, said Shekar Dattatri, a coordinator at Conservation India, a non-profit, non-commercial campaigner for wildlife and nature conservation.
“If there’s one more step of assessing a habitat to look at what biodiversity exists before allowing any kind of development, then that’s a welcome step,” he said.
Biodiversity conservation is an important issue, Natarajan said.
“For India, conservation of its biodiversity is crucial not only because it provides several goods and services necessary for human survival, but also because it is directly linked with providing livelihoods to and improving socioeconomic conditions of millions of our local people, thereby contributing to sustainable development and poverty alleviation,” she said.
Natarajan said that the main issue at CoP in Hyderabad will be to encourage countries to increase funding for biodiversity conservation.