T.S.R. Subramanian committee (Environment) : Status – UPSC GS2

T.S.R. Subramanian Report on environment:
  • The Subramanian committee was set up in August 2014 to review the existing environmental laws and the procedures followed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • The committee suggested several amendments to existing laws and regulations, including those relating to environment, forest, wildlife and coastal zone clearances and even existing institutional structures related to environmental regulation.
  • Institutional framework:
    • The committee proposed an ‘Environmental Laws (Management) Act’ under which two expert bodies, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and State Environmental Management Authority (SEMA) would be set up at the Central and State levels to provide for environmental clearances for proposed projects in a time bound manner. This would provide for single-window clearance and thus help streamline the environmental regulation process in the country.
    • These bodies would acquire the required expertise and incorporate appropriate technology in their functioning.
    • The committee also suggested an appellate mechanism against the decisions of NEMA or SEMA, prescribing a three-month deadline to dispose of such appeals.
    • The existing Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards are to be integrated into NEMA and SEMA.
  • Consolidating environmental laws:
    • The committee recommended that the Air Act and the Water Act be subsumed within the Environment Protection Act.
  • Fast tracking important projects:
    • The committee recommended a fast track procedure for linear projects (roads, railways and transmission lines), power and mining projects and for projects of national importance. This is meant to accelerate the environmental decision-making process in such critical projects.
  • National Environment Research institute:
    • The committee recommended the setting up of a National Environment Research institute to mainstream the application of high-end technology in environment governance.
  • Indian Environment Service:
    • The committee recommended an Indian Environment Service to recruit qualified and skilled human resources in the environment sector.
    • This would help towards development of special expertise in the environmental domain.
    • Currently matters of environmental regulation rests on scientists of the Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as bureaucrats from the Indian Administrative Services.
  • Environmental reconstruction cost:
    • The committee recommended the imposition of an environmental reconstruction cost on each project on the basis of the damage caused by it to the environment.
    • This amount has to be recovered as a cess or duty from the project proponent during the life of the project. The amount collected could be used for environmental conservation efforts.
Status of the committee recommendations:
  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee rejected the report on the grounds that it diluted key aspects of environmental legislation designed to protect the environment.
  • Although the Union government never formally accepted the T.S.R Subramanian committee report, many of the committee recommendations have been implicitly making their way into the process of environmental regulation in India.
    • The government has proposed certain amendments to the Forest Conservation laws.
    • The government has set timelines to undertake environmental appraisal of infrastructure projects.

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