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Faster clearance, tougher penalty is new thrust in environment law

Written by Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi |

Indian Express, Posted: November 19, 2014

Proposing  a complete overhaul of the existing environmental governance framework, a government-appointed expert committee has recommended measures that would make it easier to set up industrial or infrastructure projects, but would also ensure that those who flout pollution norms or violate green laws are penalised heavily.

Among the measures suggested by the four-member committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian are: creation of new institutions — National Environment Management Agency (NEMA) and State Environment Management Agencies (SEMA), a new “All India Environment Service”, a “national laboratory” that will host a databank of all environmental parameters, and introduction of digital and “non-tamperable” methods of monitoring compliance.

It has also proposed a new law to give a legal framework to all these and strict punishment for defaulters. While a first offence would be punished with a heavy fine, a repeat offence would straightaway invite closure of the unit or project.

“The new environment protection regime needs to be backed by the right people, right laws, right technology and right knowledge,”
Subramanian told The Indian Express after his committee handed over its report to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday.
The committee, also comprising former Environment Secretary Viswanath Anand, retired Delhi High Court Judge Justice A K Srivastav, and former Additional Solicitor General K N Bhat, was asked to review six environment-related laws with the aim of bringing them “in line with current requirements”.

Subramanian said as far as the approval and compliance mechanism (for environmental appraisal of projects) was concerned, the committee had placed its trust in the principle of “utmost good faith”. “The industry or the agency putting up the project can be allowed to certify its own assessments of the environmental impact and propose measures to mitigate these in an affidavit. The appraising agency, equipped with data and  technology, can accept these after proper verification. But once the clearance is awarded and the industry is found to be violating its own affidavit or any other rule or law, heavy penalties should be imposed immediately,” he said.


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