Friday, June 21, 2013

Ministry of environment gives in-principle approval for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial in the Arabian Sea-Johnson Thomas

Ministry of environment gives in-principle approval for the
Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial in the Arabian Sea
Mumbai / June 20, 2013
The Ministry of Environment and Forests has granted in-principal approval for the construction of Chatrapati Shivaji statue  in the Arabian Sea near Marine Drive. The Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Ms. Jayanti Natarajan and Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan made this announcement at a joint press conference in Mumbai today.
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The Government of Maharashtra has proposed to build a 309 feet statue four kms from Marine Drive on a 18 acre islet in the Arabian Sea. The site proposed by the state government falls under Coastal Regulation Zone-IV, where any of kind of construction activity is prohibited.
Briefing media persons, Ms. Natarajan said the in-principal  approval was considered as a special case, keeping in mind the aspirations and emotions of people of Maharashtra. She said the Government of Maharashtra put forward convincing arguments and the statue would be built on a solid rock bed, which is well above the high tide line. She however, asserted that no commercial activity can be undertaken at the site.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Shri Prithviraj Chavan further informed that a total of 40 different approvals will have to be obtained before beginning the construction of the memorial.
Environment Ministry is not an obstacle for development”
Ms. Natarajan also emphasized that her Ministry was not an obstacle in the path of development.  She said it was a wrong perception that the Ministry of Environment & Forests puts obstacles in granting green clearances. The Minister said, only 12 per cent of the projects come for approval to the Centre, while remaining 88 per cent projects are cleared by respective state governments.  She said the pendency ratio in her Ministry was very low and there were no proposals pending before the Forest Advisory Committee as on date.
Maharashtra CM agreed with the views expressed by Ms. Natarajan and informed that the Government of Maharashtra was putting in place systems to fast track procedures for clearing projects.
Other important issues
Earlier, the Environment Minister Ms. Natarajan held two separate meetings with senior officials of Environment and Forest Departments of Government of Maharashtra.  Implementation of Kasturi Rangan Report to Western Ghats,  lifting of mining moratorium in Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, clearance for Coastal highways around Mumbai,  environmental clearance for widening of Mumbai – Goa Highway at the Karnala Bird Sanctuary were among important issues discussed during the meeting. 
In the forenoon, Ms. Natarajan reviewed the present status of safety measures to deal with protection of environment along the coast. That meeting was attended by senior officers of Ministry of Environment & Forest, Department of Environment, Government of Maharashtra, DG Shipping, Mumbai Port Trust and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Indian Coast Guards, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum and ONGC etc. 

Environment Minister Jayanti Natarajan favours setting up of a Corpus Fund to fight oil spills
Mumbai / June 20, 2013

Union Minister for Environment & Forests, Ms. Jayanti Natarajan has favoured setting up of a Corpus Fund to aid quick response to fight oil spills off the Indian coast. In recent past there have been frequent incidences of crude oil leakages from breakdown of ships, leakage from pipelines operated by oil companies in west coast.  The Minister held wide ranging consultations with all stakeholders in Mumbai and reviewed the status of present safety systems adopted by concerned agencies.

Addressing a press conference after the two hour long meeting, Ms Natarajan said that the cleaning operation after the oil spills, often got delayed due to lack of clarity about who would fund it. She said, a corpus fund would come in handy under such circumstances and the cleaning up operation could begin immediately, thereby limiting damage to  the environment.  The outgo from the fund would be reimbursed once the compensation liability is established and claims settled.

The Minister said “this is a good proposal, the corpus size and the pattern of funding will be finalized after holding consultations with stakeholders and discussing the matter with the Prime Minister”. Ms. Natarajan said the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had some experience  in this regard, acquired while dealing with multiple oil slicks during 2010. She said the Maharashtra model will be studied further.

Ms. Natarajan informed that as many as 40 ships were stranded at different places off the Indian coast, but assured that there is no immediate danger from these ships. She said the Shipping Authorities have been monitoring the entry and exit of ships in Indian waters by following well laid out guidelines. The Minister however insisted for strong environmental laws to deal with shipping vessels that damage India’s fragile coastal eco-system, including provisions for establishing criminal liability.

Ms Natarajan also asked the Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards to review the status of existing pipeline networks at major ports to identify vulnerable areas that would need replacement or upgradation. She also asked the oil companies to upgrade their existing pipelines with monitoring systems like SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) to regularly monitor the health of pipelines. She stressed that environmental measures for control of pollution in handling materials in ports should be strictly followed.

Senior officers of Ministry of Environment & Forest, Department of Environment, Government of Maharashtra, DG Shipping, Mumbai Port Trust and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Indian Coast Guards, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum and ONGC etc participated in the meeting.

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