In an effort to get India’s economic growth back up to boom speed, President Manmohan Singh is attempting to fast track development schemes by streamlining approval processes. This is worrying to tribals and environmental groups who think such a move would green light large scale industrial projects without proper review as to their ramifications.

The danger is that getting rid of bureaucratic review processes could put development concerns ahead of the environment and people – even more than they currently are. In other words, jump starting the economy by displacing tribal communities and trashing the ecosystem.

New Delhi smog, pic: Jim Fruchterman (Flickr CC)

The Singh government views current approval processes as a slow maze of red tape. So they’ve proposed a single, all-powerful body called the National Investment Board (NIB) to replace the current bureaucracy involved in decision making for major infrastructure projects.

However, opposition within the government, from both the Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Singh Deo and Environment Minister, Jayanthi Natarajan have both voiced their opposition to the establishment of the NIB.

Environmental groups also argue that it isn’t environmental regulations that are slowing the economy down.

From the Washington Post:

The Center for Science and Environment, an advocacy group in New Delhi, said that government has cleared forest land at an unprecedented pace for industry — about 489,000 acres in the past five years.

Besides, India is already a country that is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and should take that into concern when planning more industrial development. A recent study claims that the monsoon season will fail more and more frequently as the climate changes – a threat to the regions food supplies. Failure is defined as a reduction of 40-70% in rainfall. Though rains are predicted to increase in some areas as temperatures rise, they will fall in others, according to the study.

From Reuters:

The monsoon rains could collapse about every fifth year between 2150 and 2200 with continued global warming, blamed mainly on human burning of fossil fuels, and related shifts in tropical air flows, it said.

2150? Will there even be any humans left by then?

Ah well, in the short term we can just look at how smoggy New Delhi is. Pollution is at its worst yet in the Indian capital according to the Centre for Science and the Environment (CSE). Delhi adds 1,100 personal vehicles per day, 60% of them diesel. I started coughing just reading that statistic.

Read more in the Hindustan Times.

OK if you can’t stand all that bad news, here are a couple of pinpricks of light in Indian eco-news.

First, the city of Bhopal, site of the worst chemical disaster in history, is aiming to be the most eco-friendly city in India. Read about it here.

In other news an iron ore mine in the state of Orissa is closing down to make way for an elephant corridor. Good on them. Read more here.

pic: Yathin (Flickr CC)