If Jairam Ramesh was flexible on the Kyoto Protocol and tough on industries in an endeavour to build overall responsibility towards the environment, his successor Jayanthi Natarajan seems to have a clear brief to tighten the nation's stand on that issue as she talked tough at her first meeting on climate change issues with 150 environment ministers in South Africa.
Another significant change in the Ministry's stance is on the 'go' and 'no-go' mining policy: The environment ministry has agreed to discuss coal projects on a case-by-case basis. The move indicates some headway towards resolving the deadlock since February.
However, the ministry has decided to keep some forest areas (“inviolate areas”) out of bounds for mining much to the chagrin of the BK Committee recommendations, which have been pushing for more mining areas including underground mining in the inviolate areas.
Natarajan has also announced a simplification of procedure: Now, environment and forest clearances can be processed simultaneously and not one (environment) after the other (forests). Although she may be treading on eggshells since it is unclear what implications this simultaneity will have on investors, the industry has predictably applauded her announcement. She has promised to do everything she can to cut down on delays, thus playing music to the industry's ears. Experience will soon tell us how Natarajan juggles the act.