The Supreme Court on Friday issued an opinion on a plea requesting the creation of an Indian environment service on the model of the Indian forest service. Advocacy is aimed at the effective implementation of the 2014 TSR Subramaniam committee report. granting of environmental permits; the creation of a single window for the clearance of environmental, forestry and coastal regulations and the development of a framework law on environmental management which will encompass laws on the protection of air, water and of the environment. Environmental and legal experts have criticized many of these policies, but the goal, according to the Committee, is to balance development and environmental needs. An explanation:
What is the TSR Subramaniam report?
In 2014, the Center set up a high-level committee headed by former cabinet secretary, TSR Subramaniam, to review the processes, laws and acts of the Ministry of Environment. Following the submission of the TSR Subramaniam committee report in November 2014, then environment minister Prakash Javadekar said it was a landmark achievement that would “balance development commitments and environmental protection”.
How will an Indian environmental service contribute?
According to the report, the public sector, including central and state governments, and various other quasi-statutory bodies, such as corporations, city councils, law enforcement agencies, as well as industrial sectors will need reliable high-level expertise in handling environmental issues in recent times.
“Current approval systems and oversight mechanisms operate in an almost amateurish fashion, leading to sub-optimal management of environmental issues,” the report says, proposing the creation of a new Indian environment service. To recruit staff into the service, a panel of experts may review entry qualifications and other details, preferably for recruitment by open competition in consultation with the MoEFCC, Personnel and Training Department and the ‘UPSC.
What did the committee recommend?
The committee said environmental and forest governance in the country needs to be realigned through a series of structural and process-oriented changes. He called for a new reforestation policy to attract investment in growing trees on private land; define the “forest” to remove any ambiguity; the net present value of forests that is paid by project developers instead of diverting forests is increased; creating inviolate or prohibited areas in forests; one-stop authorization system for projects requiring environmental authorization; the proposed establishment of a full-time expert body, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) at the Center, and the National Environmental Management Authority (SEMA) for project approval ; introduced a new concept of “maximum good faith” to be introduced in new legislation, in order to guarantee that the applicant for an environmental authorization is legally responsible for his declarations; a new “umbrella” model law that will encompass the Air Law, the Water Law and the PE Law; creation of a new All India Service – Indian Environment Service among several other recommendations.
What do environmental experts say about these recommendations?
Most experts are extremely critical of the recent policy changes made as a result of the recommendations. “Creating dedicated environmental services, or creating new legal frameworks like those suggested in the TSR report, may not be able to offer a solution to the deeper issues surrounding environmental decision-making. Legal standards for environmental protection are regularly lowered and institutions are required to focus on granting approvals rather than taking proactive measures to protect the environment. In an environment where committees like the TSR report recommended minimizing environmental scrutiny based on the utmost good faith, there is little new regulators or dedicated government departments can do. Environmental protection can only be strengthened by clear intent and only by mainstreaming and integrating it upstream into economic planning,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at the Center for Policy Research.
“Timelines for granting environmental permits are stipulated in the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification of 2006. We are only trying to meet these timeframes and bring efficiency to all systems. I don’t I haven’t heard of the creation of an Indian environment department, but it’s a very big ministry with different departments. These decisions will be taken at the government level,” said a senior environment ministry official.
Is the Ministry of the Environment implementing the recommendations of the TSR Subramaniam committee?
The Ministry of Environment has started to implement most of the recommendations of the TSR Subramaniam committee. For example, in March last year, the ministry commissioned a private law firm to draft a new environmental management law which will act as an umbrella law covering air laws, water and the environment. In October, the ministry released a consultation paper on amending the Forest Conservation Act 1980 to bring about significant changes to forest governance in India, including facilitating private plantations for harvesting and processing. exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas deep under forest land by drilling holes from outside the territory. forest areas; the Ministry, in line with the recommendations of the Committee, is in the process of establishing a one-stop authorization process for all forest, environmental, wildlife and Coastal Regulatory Area authorizations. The average time for granting environmental permits across all sectors has fallen significantly, from more than 150 days in 2019 to less than 90 days in 2021, the ministry said in December. The department also plans to rank states based on how quickly they grant environmental (EC) clearances to development projects. The ranking criteria were detailed in a memo sent by the department to all states on Jan. 17, in which they said they would do a star rating for states based on efficiency and speed of granting the EC.