Jairam Ramesh concludes two days of intense negotiations

The Central government will come halfway — literally — in its bid to prevent the thousands of landless poor now marching along National Highway 3 from actually reaching the capital. After two days of intense negotiations with the march’s organisers Ekta Parishad, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has decided to head to Agra — slightly before the halfway point of the Jan Satyagraha — and is likely to sign an agreement on land reforms there on Thursday.

It was under pressure to complete the ratification process.

Efforts of Jairam and Jyotiraditya to talk them out of it fail

Thousands from all over India set to march to Delhi to demand their own land

On Tuesday, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Union Minister of State for Commerce Jyotiraditya Scindia flew into Gwalior in a last-ditch effort to convince the padayatra organisers — a land reform people’s movement called Ekta Parishad — to call off the march and accept the Government’s promises that a draft National Land Reform Policy will be prepared within six months.

The Government may consider tighter environment and safety norms for the Kudankulam nuclear plant even as it insists that all current conditions are being strictly complied with.

Asked if a safety review was on the cards, given the Supreme Court’s statement on Thursday that the plant could be shut if the safety aspects were not satisfactorily ensured, Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said: “I am willing to consider [a re-look] in terms of safety. Right now, there is full compliance of all the conditions we imposed… We are very confident all conditions are being scrupulously followed.”

“Environmental impact assessment tends to ignore wider impact on biodiversity”

In a move that will bring cheer to wildlife lovers but could dismay industry lobbyists already complaining about the difficulty in obtaining green clearances, the government plans to add biodiversity conservation as a new criterion to grant environmental and forest clearances. “There is no biodiversity clearance till now,” admitted Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, speaking ahead of the United Nations summit on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which begins in Hyderabad next week.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is investigating a complaint that Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) has sunk almost 400 borewells to source water for its mega steel and power plant in Angul, Odisha, instead of drawing water from the Brahmani river, as stipulated in its environment clearance. The company admits it has not yet completed its pipeline to the river, but claims that it is running a 135 MW power plant using collected rainwater instead.

The Union Environment Ministry has taken the side of conservationists fighting for survival of 300-odd Narcondam hornbills, threatened by a Coast Guard plan to set up a radar surveillance system on the tiny island in the Andamans where the birds make their home.

On August 31, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued an order rejecting the proposal, suggesting that the Coast Guard explore other options, “like installation of off-shore structures and several other viable options…which can spare the unique habitat of Narcondam Island from disturbance,

Union Cabinet approves negotiating brief

India will head to the Rio+20 summit in Brazil with a negotiating brief focussed on defending the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” (CBDR) and preventing any attempt to pin down specific goals or targets regarding sustainable development. On Thursday, the Union Cabinet approved the strategy to be followed by Indian negotiators at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, popularly known as Rio+20 due to the first such summit held in Rio de Janeiro two decades ago.

All hydroelectric projects on the Ganga could be asked to reduce their power generation — possibly up to 50 per cent of capacity — in an effort to provide a clean and continuous flow of the river's waters, if a proposal by Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan is found to be legally viable.

“We cannot shut down existing projects, but we are exploring the legality of reducing the capacity of operational hydroelectric plants,” she told The Hindu on Tuesday. “A clean Ganga is my top priority at present… we need to get extremely proactive.”