Urban Naxals had stalled work of Sardar Sarovar dam for years claiming it is bad for environment: PM Modi
Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday alleged that “urban Naxals and anti-development elements” with political backing had stalled the construction of Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river in Gujarat for many years by running a campaign that it would harm the environment.
Such “urban Naxals” are still active and getting support from various institutions to stall development projects in the name of environment protection, Modi said while urging environment ministers from different states to ensure that projects aimed at bringing ‘ease of doing business’ or ‘ease of life’ do not get stalled unnecessarily.
He also asked the state governments to adopt a balanced approach in granting environment clearances “to counter the conspiracy of such people”.
The prime minister was addressing the environment ministers from states after virtually inaugurating the National Conference of Environment Ministers at Ekta Nagar in Narmada district of Gujarat via video conference.
“Urban Naxals and anti-development elements having political backing had stalled the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam by running a campaign that the project will harm the environment. Huge amount of money was wasted due to this delay. Now, when the dam is complete, you can very well judge how dubious their claims were,” he said.
Modi added that contrary to the claims that the project would harm the environment, the area surrounding the dam has now become a “teerth kshetra” or place of pilgrimage for environment lovers.
He was referring to the famous ‘Statue of Unity’ and many iconic tourist attractions, such as jungle safari, valley of flowers, and many gardens that came up near the 182-metre tall monument.
‘Urban Naxal’ term is often used by some segments of the political spectrum to describe sympathisers of the Naxalism cause as well as certain social activists.
Last month, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel had also alleged that “urban Naxals” had opposed the Sardar Sarovar dam to deprive the state and arid Kutch region of water and development. He had labelled activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar as an “urban Naxal”.
Cautioning the ministers, PM Modi said that urban Naxals are still active and get support from various institutions as well as political parties to stall developmental projects in the name of environment protection.
“These people stall projects by influencing even the judiciary and the World Bank. I urge you to make sure that projects aimed at bringing ‘ease of doing business’ or ‘ease of life’ do not get unnecessarily stalled in the name of the environment,” he said.
“The states should adopt a balanced approach in granting environment clearance to counter the conspiracy of such people,” the prime minister added.
Expressing displeasure over the unnecessary delay in the issuance of environmental clearances for various projects, Modi said development will pick up pace only when these clearances are given quickly, which should be done without any compromise.
“Nearly 6,000 applications for environmental clearance and nearly 6,500 for forest clearance are still pending in different states. As you all know, such pendency escalates project cost. All of us need to try to reduce this pendency. Only genuine ones should be kept pending,” Modi said.
He said that granting speedy environment clearance will prove to be a “win-win” situation for both economy and environment.
The prime minister gave an example of the recently-built Pragati Maidan tunnel in Delhi aimed at easing the traffic flow. “By using this tunnel, vehicles are saving nearly 55 lakh litres of fuel every year,” he added.
“This resulted in reduction of 13,000 tonnes of carbon emission. We would have needed six lakh trees to absorb this much carbon. Flyovers, roads and railway projects help in reducing carbon emission. Do not ignore this angle while granting environment clearances,” he said.
On the occasion, the PM made a pitch for providing training to the forest staff, strengthening the mechanism to tackle forest fires, using forest waste, such as dry leaves, to produce industrial fuel and adopting participative and integrated approach for better results.
He also urged the states to start working on implementing the Centre’s vehicle scrappage policy by first scrapping old and unfit government vehicles so that the process begins.
“I also want the states to start working on the bio-fuel policy by using bio-fuel in their official vehicles as much as possible. We need to own up the policies and implement them on the ground. Ethanol blending in fuel will also help farmers as they will get income on their farm waste,” he said.
Modi also urged states to promote circular economy, which according to him, would help the country in better solid waste management and eliminate single-use plastic.