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HRC 45 Written Statement on Items 2 and 3: Stop the attacks on the environment and policy in India during the Covid-19 crisis

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Human Rights Council Forty-fifth session 14 September–2 October 2020

Agenda items 2 and 3 Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Written statement* submitted by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

[20 August 2020]

Stop the attacks on the environment and policy in India during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) brings to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the need for urgent action on the recent problematic policy changes, destructive developmental decisions and undemocratic actions of India concerning the environment during the Covid-19 crisis. India’s environment has been an area of major concern. The country ranks 168 out of 180 countries in the biennial Environmental Performance Index 2020 and is second last at 179 as far as air quality is concerned. Not only are environment indicators appallingly low in the country, but the people in the country, especially marginalised and indigenous communities are already suffering from adverse impacts of pollution and climate change. The impact of loose polices, increasingly arbitrary and non-participatory decision-making processes providing free-hand to violators is being felt on the environment and the people. While the environmental crises continue to exacerbate, India has taken a series of decisions concerning the environment in the past 5 months that have sparked widespread criticism. Despite the imposition of one of the most draconian lockdowns with only 4 hours’ notice on 24 March 2020, several major decisions allowing commercial exploitation of natural resources and promulgation of destructive environment policies were made, knowing fully well that the general public is not in a position to oppose, engage with processes or effectively participate in any manner. Meanwhile, several industrial disasters have occurred in this period resulting in deaths. Communities are facing multi-fold disasters such as floods and cyclones, adding to the burden of the Covid-19 crisis, lack of health infrastructure and economic slowdown on account of the lockdown. Defenders raising their voices against environmental destruction have been subject to attacks, criminalisation and reprisals through police action.

Some major issues are set out below in the full statement.

Please click here for a pdf version of the full statement.