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The exit of Jayanthi Natarajan from the environment ministry has created instant controversy. The minister was allegedly shunted out as she was accused of being obstructionist in granting clearances to
big infrastructure projects.

There has never been any argument that robust environmental protection is essential in a country such as India. What is in debate is the manner in which such protection is to be effected. Can this only be reactive, say by obstructing projects? Or should there be a positive plan, that of reviving degraded land, forests and rivers along with saving what exists? The latter option is fruitful, the former only grabs headlines.

India’s failures in this respect have been monumental. Its dying rivers are one good example. Obstruction cannot be a substitute for more positive action. That is where the environment ministry’s failures lie.

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