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October , 2010
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Ramesh hopeful env issues will get due attention after new law

Source: The Times of India, Date: October , 2010

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh  has expressed hope that enactment of a new law would pave the way for raising "real" environment issues instead of land acquisition woes related to projects awaiting clearance.

His comments on the proposed Land Acquisition Amendment Bill hold importance as presently, instead of environmental issues, it has been found that land acquisition related problems discussed during public hearings, which part of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report, often become the deciding factor for giving a nod to a project.

Unhappy with the trend, Ramesh, said his ministry "cannot sit in judgement on every project on land acquisition. Frankly, then we are going to spend our whole time finding out how much compensation has been paid in each case.

"Hence, it (land related issues) should not come under Environment Ministry, ideally it should not," he said.

"But once it is (Amendment Bill) is passed... land acquisition issues will be dealt before they come to us.

"Also it will be the transaction between the project authority and the land owner. Market rates will be paid," Ramesh said pointing out that compensation matters will be sorted out much before his ministry comes into the picture.

"Environmental issues will acquire entirely new dimensions. A real set of environmental issues will be raised and not those linked with land acquisition," Ramesh said hoping that issues like pollution and land degradation come to the forefront for discussion during green clearance to a project.

In this context, he cited the proposed Jaithapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra to be built in collaboration with France and Posco steel project in Orissa which are held up due to land-related problems.

The Land Acquisition Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, provides for mandatory social impact assessment for any acquisition resulting in large-scale displacement.

The central government promised to bring the Bill in Parliament's winter session after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in August, following the farmers' agitation in Uttar Pradesh to demand higher compensation for land notified for acquisition for Yamuna Expressway. 

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