Amid criticism that the nation's industrialisation and economic growth were getting blocked due to delay in granting “environmental clearances” to the industries, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday announced the government's plans to set up an independent regulator to give environmental clearances.
“We also hope to establish an independent regulator — the National Environment Appraisal and Monitoring Authority — soon. This authority could lead to a complete change in the process of granting environmental clearances. Staffed by dedicated professionals, it will work on a full-time basis to evolve better and more objective standards of scrutiny,” said Dr. Singh at the valedictory of an international seminar on ‘Global Environment and Disaster Management,' organised by the Supreme Court here He also called for establishing an effective legal and regulatory framework to protect the environment “but without bringing back the hated license permit raj of the pre-1991 period.”
Praising the Indian judiciary he said, “but for the enduring wisdom of our judiciary, we would not have the bulk of what we proudly call environmental jurisprudence.”
He underlined the need for designing a system of intellectual property rights, which provided adequate incentives to invest in the development of new environment friendly technologies and at the same time ensured that these technologies were available to poor countries at affordable cost.
On the government's efforts in protecting the environment, he said, in the last four years it had formulated a national agenda for environmental protection to meet the challenges of disaster management and climate change. “We have a target for greening 10 million hectares of forest land to increase incomes of the poor through a national Green India Mission.”
Work for generating over 20,000 MW of solar energy by the year 2020 was underway. “Our mission for enhanced energy efficiency will reduce substantially need for capacity addition. Our mission for sustainable habitat will develop standards for green buildings, which we intend to make integral to our municipal laws.”
The government's mission on sustainable agriculture and water conservation would increase productivity of dry land agriculture as well as increase efficiency of water use. “All these steps will cumulatively lead us to a low carbon growth path. These are steps that we have decided to take on our own as responsible global citizens.”
Dr. Singh praised the new “comprehensive law,” which established a Specialised Tribunal for settlement of a “broad spectrum of environmental cases of civil nature.”
India “had joined a handful of forward looking countries to have such a dedicated mechanism. This tribunal has started functioning and I expect it will help to reduce the workload of our courts,” he said.
Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia said the concept of environmental protection should be a continuous process in the context of what constitute clean, decent and viable environment. “It is the case of applied ethics, which governments and authorities have to look into.”
He also suggested to the Environment Ministry to take into account a regulatory mechanism for enforcement of environmental issues. “India is a vast country. We can't just rely upon the report of project proponent. The Ministry of Environment and Forests alone cannot have this appraisal in some of the cases,” Justice Kapadia felt.