The MoEFCC Portal Is No Longer Providing Info on Environmental Impacts, Claims Report

The Parivesh portal that provides information on forest and other clearances for projects has not been updated since September, says a 'Hindustan Times' report.

New Delhi: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is no longer posting information on the environmental impacts of projects on Parivesh, its official single window system that also provides information on forest, environmental, wildlife and coastal zone clearances for developmental projects, reported Hindustan Times.

The public can now access this information only under the Right to Information Act, it said. The Union environment ministry is yet to officially confirm this.

The development, if true, is a huge concern, according to experts.

No more info on environmental impacts

The MoEFCC’s Parivesh website no longer provides information on the environmental impacts of developmental projects, reported Hindustan Times on April 21. The Parivesh portal – Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive and Virtuous Environment Single-window Hub – is a single window system system for environment, forest, wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone clearances. It aims to “enhance efficiency, transparency and accountability” in these clearance processes, per the website. It also makes available documents such as minutes of meetings, agendas, approvals and clearances afforded to projects.

However, details of projects after September 5 last year have not been updated on the Parivesh website since September last year, reported HT. Information associated with environment, forest and wildlife clearances have been aligned with the Right To Information Act 2005, the news article quoted unnamed environment ministry officials as saying. 

The Wire has reached out to the Union environment ministry to confirm this. The story will be updated when The Wire receives a response.

The ministry is doing this to “respect the interests” of project proponents, an unnamed MoEFCC official told HT, since the information would also include sensitive and confidential information such as balance sheets and cost-benefit analysis.

Experts raise concerns

If true, the development “marks a new era of emergency in environmental democracy”, tweeted Debadityo Sinha, lead, Climate and Ecosystems, at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. It is “unconstitutional” and goes “against national interest”, he added.

“Using s8(1)e & (j) of RTI Act is simply wrong,” his tweet said. “How can an ‘Authority’ or ‘Regulator’ which is responsible to protect & safeguard environment & forest claim itself to be in ‘fiduciary’ relationship with ‘corporates’ & work for their interest instead of ‘public interest’?”

The Central Information Commission, established under the RTI Act 2005 has previously directed that all documents and studies submitted as part of environmental clearances must be made public by the Public Information Officer and displayed on the MoEFCC website, Sinha added

Access to information, public participation, and access to justice are essential components of the Environmental Rule of Law laid down by the UNEP in 2019. By withdrawing such rights in favour of the commercial interests of project developers instead of the public, the MOEFCC is committing a great disservice to the nation, he said.