Why an independent monitoring agency will remain a non-starter

On September 17, 2009, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) opened for public comments a discussion paper on the proposed National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA). As envisaged, the NEPA is proposed to be an “independent” body that will implement, regulate and monitor environment and pollution-related legal frameworks, otherwise designed by the MoEF. One justification behind the requirement of the NEPA is MoEF's own admission that it does not have the capacity to adequately assess project clearance and monitor the conditions laid out in the process. To strengthen their support for NEPA, the MoEF took note of Planning Commission reports and the findings of two NGO studies; one by Kalpavriksh on the monitoring and compliance of environment clearance conditions and the other by the Centre for Science and Environment on the functioning of Pollution Control Boards.

The Ministry's discussion note states that there is currently a fatigue in setting up new institutions, yet it goes on to recommend a new body that could perform several roles presently executed by the Ministry. The NEPA discussion paper selectively picks certain reports and studies and portrays the issue as being that of institutional capacity to handle environment clearances and monitor the conditions set out therein. For example, the Kalpavriksh report brings out the mess that exists in the name of environmental compliance, but does not recommend the need for an apex authority in its report.

Full article can be read in The Hindu's Survey of the Environment 2010. The publication is now on stands. Copies can be obtained by Registered Post (not V.P.P.) for Rs.80 (Rupees Eighty) by drawing a cheque in favour of "Kasturi and Sons Ltd." (Add Rs.10 for non-Chennai cheques) and sending it to the Circulation Department, The Hindu, 859-860, Anna Salai, Chennai 600002 Email: subs@thehindu.co.in

Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon are with Kalpavriksh.