CHARGE 1: DIRECTIONED ISSUED FROM PMO FORCING AGENCIES TO CLEAR WITH DUE DILIGENCE

  • The Project Monitoring Group of the Prime Minister’s Office, perhaps has the most impact on environment. The role of the project monitoring group is to enable investors (FDI of Rs 500 Crore or Indian Rs 1000 Crore) who can log in to the e-Suvidha portal and seek intervention in changing policies, obtaining clearances and changing rules to facilitate them. Once uploaded the PMG officials chase down the appraisal authorities to expedite the clearances which then become a fait accompli and without proper due-diligence they are merely papers generated to allow the activity.
  • A look at the current list of 1036 projects in this portal is clearly indicative of climate unfriendly approach of the Government. This has completely undermined the laws and policies and its mindless and relentless pursuit of “ease-of-doing-business” is completely destroying the edifices of the regulatory and oversight institutions.
  • India is 177th in the Environmental Performance Index among 180 countries even if it has inched to the 100th position in the Ease-of-Doing-Business Index.

CHARGE 2: DILUTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL SAFEGAURDS

  • The Government began the process with a diametrically opposite effort by constituting a High-Level Committee to dilute the various provisions of the Environmental legislations. These legislations have come in with several struggles of the communities and also commitments made to the international community.
  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee rejected the report of the High-level Committee. Yet, having failed in wholesale dilution, persistent efforts are being continuously made to dismantle these safeguards.

CHARGE 3: EFFORTS TO REMOVE THE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR FROM THE PURVIEW OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCRUTINY

Under the existing law, all Building and Construction projects from 20,000 sq.meters requires an environmental clearance EC under the EIA Notification, 2006. It also requires Consent to Establish and Operate under the Air Act, 1981 and the Water Act, 1974. Moreover, any concerned person can approach the National Green Tribunal to challenge the Environmental Clearance or seek action for violation.

In a Notification dated December 9, 2016 issued by MoEF & CC which exempted real-estate projects up to 1,50,000 sq.meters built up area from the need for undergoing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and obtaining Environmental Clearance (EC) from MoEF/ State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) and exempting the operation of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974  for Building and Construction projects up to 150,000 Sq. Mts.

CHARGE 4: THE IMPUNITY OF THE HIGHWAY SECTOR
style=”text-align:justify”The dilution of the regulations is also best indicated in the Roads and Highway sector. The Ministry hasexempted highways below 100 km from the purview of Environmental Impact Assessments. This has led to the widespread destruction the highways are causing to the environment and also generating pollution, dumping muck into reservoirs and wetlands, haphazardly quarrying for road materials. The classic case is of the Chandigarh-Rohtang National Highway 21, which goes along the Bhakra Reservoir. The four-laning of this road has been split in sections of less than 100 km to do away with all the due-diligence required. The Bhakra Reservoir area, which used to be the Govind Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary was denotified, apparently to rationalise protected areas.

CHARGE 5: NEW EFFORT TO DILUTE COSTAL REGULATIONS
style=”text-align:justify”Being obsessed with rapid and exponential development of ports and coastal infrastructure, with the assumption of office in 2014, the Government initiated a CRZ review by Shailesh Nayak Committee to the proposed MCRZ Notification, each review/revision process has only diluted the coastal regulation. CRZ 2018 notification proposes a series of changes in the 2011 version. Among the most worrisome is the arbitrary reduction of the tidal influence on land. The draft notification states “CRZ limits on land along the tidal influenced water bodies has been proposed to be reduced from 100 metres or the width of the creek, whichever is less, to 50 metres or the width of the creek, whichever is less.”

CHARGE 6: DILUTION AND DESTRUCTION OF INSTITUTIONS GOVERNING WETLANDS

The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010 had clearly prohibited activities like reclamation of wetlands, setting up of new industries and expansion of existing industries, solid waste dumping, manufacturing or handling or storage or disposal of hazardous substances, discharge of untreated waste and effluents from industries, cities, towns and other human settlements, any construction of permanent nature and any other activity that is likely to have an adverse impact on the ecosystem of wetlands. The new wetland rules promulgated, in the guise of “wise-use”, by the Government has severe implications to the already depleting water bodies especially through dumping on these sites and large-scale encroachment by real estate. The specific aspects of the dilution are indicated here but in the name of decentralising authority, the role has been assigned to those who are responsible for its degradation.

  1. Restricted, Diluted definition of Wetland by excluding zone of direct influence, catchment area, manmade water bodies/ tanks/ salt pans from the ambit of the definition.
  2. The categorisation laid down under the Rules of 2010 has been done away with, and only Ramsar Sites as well as wetlands identified by the Central Government, State Government and the Union Territories’ Administration would be protected under the new regime.
  • Dismantling of the Central Wetland Regulatory Authority, and constitution of a National Wetlands Committee which has been given only an advisory role under the new regime envisaged under the impugned Rules.
  1. Arbitrary concentration of power with the State Government as it has been empowered to notify the wetlands in their respective States and it is the Minister of Environment of the State that heads the Wetland Authority which has to identify and recommend wetlands for notification.
  2. List of Prohibited and Restricted Activities that can be carried out on wetland and its catchment area has been severely diluted
  3. Requirement of Environment Impact Assessment has been deleted which was mandatory under the Rules of 2010.