SC QUESTIONS DELAY IN SETTING UP ENVIRONMENT REGULATOR
The Supreme Court of India has asked the Government to explain the delay caused in setting up an ‘independent environment regulator’ to oversee green clearances.
The back ground | The Supreme Court has earlier in the case of Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Ltd. v. Union of India (2011), ordered to set up a national environment regulatory body under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for ensuring the independent oversight of green clearances. This case is also known as Lafarge mining case.
Need for an independent regulator
a) The green bench of the Supreme Court has been dealing with forest- related issues for almost two decades.
b) The bench has experienced several problems related to environment and granting of forest clearances.
c) It had to deal with poor Environment Impact Assessment reports and bad decisions of the Forest Advisory Committee which recommends diversion of forestland for developmental projects.
d) There is conflict of interest in the manner an EIA report is prepared and forest area is identified, demarcated and finally diverted for non- forest uses.
Role of the regulator
· It will carry out independent, objective and transparent appraisal and approval of projects for environmental clearances.
· It will monitor the implementation of conditions laid down in clearances and impose penalties on polluters.
· While exercising such powers the regulator would ensure that the National Forest Policy, 1988 is duly implemented.
Other related issues
· Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) functions on an ad-hoc basis without much regulatory capacity.
· The state level appraisal committees overseeing the clearance are also working with little regulatory assistance.
· The committees function according to the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006.
· EAC lacks expertise of its members and chairpersons.
· EAC and state level committees are incapable due to lack of effective legislative power and supporting institutional capacity.
· There are various clearances but none works for the protection of rights of communities or environment-
Ø Forest clearance under Section 2of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
Ø Coastal Clearance under the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011
Ø Wildlife clearance under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.