New Delhi: The Centre has informed Supreme Court that there is no need for setting up of a green regulator to oversee matters related to environmental clearances and pleaded for modification of its order for setting up such a body.
In an application filed in the apex court, the Centre however said that an Authority to monitor and facilitate implementation of the National Forest Policy, 1988 will be set up.
It said that typically a regulator is required to provide a level playing field to various players in a given sector and to protect interests of the common man which is already being done by the Centre through its various agencies.
"In case of grant of approvals under the Forest Conservation Act and Environment Protection
Act, the question of providing a level playing field for sectoral players has never been raised.
In fact, such a level playing field already exists since the procedure and regulations prescribed are uniformly applicable to all the project proponents.
"Adequate measures to protect interests of common man are already in place in the present Regulatory mechanism for grant of approval under the Acts," the affidavit said.
The Centre pleaded before the court to modify its order passed on July 6, 2011 directing the government to "appoint a National Regulator for appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters."
The Supreme Court`s direction had came while deciding the issue of environment clearance given by the Environment Ministry to French cement firm Lafarge to mine in the forests of Meghalaya.
The Centre contended that grant of forest and environment clearance involves frequent interaction and coordination with State/Union Territory Governments and various Ministries/ Departments in the Central Government which can be best performed by it as is being done in the present system.
"At the outset, it is submitted that regulation of a field of governance, namely environment, need not necessarily be done through one Super Regulator. It can be equally effective and efficient to have a regulatory scheme in place so long as it is compliant with the principles laid down by this Court and the guiding principles of the National Forest Policy, 1988," the government said.
"The Central Government in the MoEF has proactively performed its role as a Regulator and utilised powers conferred upon it to frame statutory Rules and Regulations through open discussion, public participation, circulation of the draft papers inviting suggestions, etc," it said.
It said in view the diverse and inter-connected nature of issues involved in grant of environment clearance to various categories of projects, it may not be feasible for a single authority with limited number of experts to appraise proposals seeking environment clearance to projects of various categories.
"The MoEF is of the opinion that the requisite Regulatory Mechanism for appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters is already in place. The MoEF in consultation with concerned Ministries/ Departments in the Central Government and State/ Union Territory governments, and guidance of this Hon`ble Court is making serious efforts to streamline and strengthen the same," it said.
"Creation of an alternative/parallel Regulatory Mechanism will thus not only result in duplication of efforts, but will also result in strain on limited financial and infrastructure resources, which may otherwise be utilised for strengthening of the existing Regulatory Mechanism," it said.