With the appointment of the third committee of experts by the Union Environment Ministry to review a few contentious hydroelectric power projects in Uttarakhand, activists see an attempt to shift the debate away from the danger they pose to changing their design in tune with the disaster-prone State.
The Ravi Chopra Committee and the Vinod Tare Committee had warned against the projects, including the six on which the Supreme Court is yet to give a decision.
The Hindu reviewed the minutes of the two meetings of the newly formed committee held in June and July.
Lata Tapovan (171 MW),
Alaknanda Badrinath (300 MW),
Kotlibhel 1A (195 MW),
Jhelum Tamak (128 MW),
Bhyundar Ganga (24.8 MW), and
Khirao Ganga (4.5 MW), are the projects that will be reviewed again by the new committee.
At a meeting held in July, the developers of the six projects presented design modifications to the new committee, so that they could be implemented once the issues of muck disposal, impact on biodiversity and disaster mitigation plan were addressed. The modifications were discussed last year too, but the first committee rejected them. Since the developers again failed to present acceptable modifications, the committee has said they should come up with the required modifications.
In the latest affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Ministry has also underscored the importance of design modifications, almost ruling out the possibility of cancellation of the projects even if they don’t meet the criteria.
Environmentalists have been objecting to the formation of the new committee, suspecting that the Ministry is forming committee after committee to get the green signal for the contentious projects.
On the formation of the third committee, senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, E. Theophilus of the Uttarakhand-based Himal Prakriti, and Bharat Jhunjhunwala, a former professor of the IIM-Bangalore, had written to Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
“Not only is this a violation but also a clear indication of your ministry’s malafide intentions to overwrite and compromise the findings of previous committees…It is hence clear that till the time you [Mr. Javadekar] do not get a report that gives a green signal to these hydropower projects you will continue to form one committee after another, regardless of the reality on the ground,” they said.
In its affidavit in the SC, the Ministry highlights design modifications, almost ruling out their cancellation in disaster-prone Uttarakhand
5.India on top in exporting beef
India retains its top spot as the world’s largest exporter of beef, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and has extended its lead over the next highest exporter, Brazil. It must be noted, however, that the U.S. government classifies even buffalo meat as beef.
According to the data, India exported 2.4 million tonnes of beef and veal in FY2015, compared to 2 million tonnes by Brazil and 1.5 million by Australia. These three countries account for 58.7 per cent of all the beef exports in the world. India itself accounts for 23.5 per cent of global beef exports. This is up from a 20.8 per cent share last year.
Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) shows that most of India’s buffalo meat exports go to Asian countries — Asia receives more than 80 per cent, while Africa takes around 15 per cent. Within Asia, Vietnam is the largest recipient, at 45 per cent.
India’s buffalo meat exports have been growing at an average of nearly 14 per cent each year since 2011, and fetching India as much as $4.8 billion in 2014. Last year, India for the first time earned more from the export of buffalo meat than it did from Basmati rice.
Several databases, including the United Nations Food and Agricultural Outlook, show that meat consumption in India is increasing. However, the data also shows that beef consumption has been falling over the years, down -44.5 per cent in 2014 from the level it was in 2000. This fall in consumption has been taking place regardless of the political party in power. Chicken consumption, however, was up 31 per cent in that period.