TSR Subramaniam Committee

“The recent report of the High-Level Committee for reviewing environmental laws has a misplaced focus on speedy project clearances and wrongly attributes their delays to environmental laws.” Critically examine. (200 Words)

A High-Level Committee was constituted to review a list of Environmental acts administered by the Min. Of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC). With proposals for amending some existing Acts so as to bring them in line with the requirements of various pending project clearances creates a cloud over the actual purpose of the HLC.
Concerns over some Recommendations-
  1. Identify and specify ―No Go forest areas with 70% canopy (apart from protected area)-This classification is detrimental for the effective evaluation of any forest with low canopy as it may have dense cover earlier, thus it will reduce the actual forest estimates.
  2. Economic incentives for promoting ―tree-land‖ as distinct forest encourage forest diversion.
  3. Compensatory Afforestation and Net Payment Value (NPV) payment will further enhance forest diversion which can‘t be restored.
  4. Proposed amendment to the Schedule Tribes and The Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 to remove the precondition for approval from Gram Sabha in case of linear projects; which is a bold move against the very existence of the democratic decentralized system.
  5. Proposed amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to dilute the mandatory central permission into a situational one.
  6. Special treatment for linear projects, Power, mining, strategic border projects and creation of new ‘Umbrella law’ ―Environment Laws for Management Act‖(ELMA) for setting up National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and State Environmental Management Authority (SEMA) in National and State level respectively for full time clearance and monitoring agencies and induction of ‘utmost good faith’ will induce discontent among the forest dwellers.
Some positive aspects of the Recommendations-
  • Incorporation of noise pollution as an offence in EPA.
  • Creation of appellate tribunal for appeals.
  • Judicial review role for National Green Tribunal.
  • Creation of Env. Reconstruction Fund.
  • ‘Green Awareness‘ prog. In primary and secondary schools.
  • Banning plastic and polythene inside sanctuaries.
With the notion of ―Development identified by industrial and mining project and revamped ―Single Window approval procedure for ensuring time-bound and speedy clearances, the laws will not encourage the protection of the environment, but only introduce degradation to environments if implemented. So it should be re-evaluated before putting the ideas into legislatures.