Ramesh hails SC order on env clearance

New Delhi: Describing the Supreme Court order in Lafarge uranium mining case as a "landmark" judgement, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday said it will set the stage for further reforms in environmental governance and make it more effective.

Ramesh said the apex court has given a "new and enhanced" status to the National Forest Policy prepared under the "personal leadership" of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and vowed to implement the direction "in letter and spirit".

The NFP has been "a guiding principle" for forest administration for over two decades, he said.

"The MoE&F believes this is a landmark judgement which will set the stage for further reforms in environmental governance," the Minister said in a statement here.

He also welcomed Supreme Court`s direction to set up a National Regulator to overlook matters related to environmental clearances.

Ramesh said his ministry has already of its own accord initiated this process and a draft note on the establishment of an independent National Environment Appraisal and Monitoring Authority (NEAMA) has been circulated for inter-ministerial consultations and will be moved for Cabinet approval.

"The MoE&F is of the view that judiciary has played a pivotal role in environmental and forest management. The MoE&F will continue to work closely with the judiciary in the pursuit of sustainable development," he said, adding, the apex court order "puts in place a structure that will make the process of environmental governance more effective".

The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia, Justice Aftab Alam and Justice K S Radhakrishnan yesterday permitted resumption of mining operations by Lafarge in Meghalaya to supply limestone to its USD 255-million cement plant at Chhatak in Bangladesh.

The Supreme Court is "satisfied with the due diligence exercise undertaken by the Ministry in the matter of forest diversion" to Lafarge to mine uranium in Meghalaya, Ramesh said.

In the 115-page long order, the apex court gave many guidelines regarding the environment clearances and said that it can "review the decision-making process to ensure that the decision of MoEF is fair and fully informed, based on the correct principles".