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Green lobby unhappy with decision to set up NEPA

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh`s decision to set up a new authority to regulate all environmental norms has not gone down well with the green lobby.

New Delhi: Environment Minister Jairam
Ramesh`s decision to set up a new authority to regulate all
environmental norms has not gone down well with the green
lobby and some members of civil society who feel that the
concept does not address fundamental concerns.

The panelists expressed their views at a national
workshop on `Reforms in Environmental Regulation` organised
here with an aim to provide a platform to discuss the proposed
role of National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA).

While Ramesh felt that the NEPA would have the power to
set up standards, grant clearances as well as monitor the
compliance of these clearances and other rules, some experts
and environmentalists felt otherwise.

Chandra Bhushan from Centre for Science and Environment
(CSE) maintained that the proposed authority will have several
shortcomings, saying that there was need to define much more
clearly the reasons for which it was being set up.

"If there is lack of capacity in the existing
institutions like Central Pollution Board then that can be
built up and we need to see why they have failed in performing
their role in checking violation of norms," he added.

He pointed that since 1994, the ministry has brought in
14 amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment
notification and 21 amendments to the Coastal Regulation Zone
Notification of 1991, all of them aimed at providing
expeditious clearances to project promoters.

Echoing similar sentiments, Kanchi Kohli from
Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group, a Delhi-based advocacy
organisation, said discussion paper on the NEPA did not dwell
on how it would do away the deficiencies in the existing

"It looks like that NEPA is going to inherit the legacy
of a faulty environment decision-making regime which churned
out almost dysfunctional CPCB and SPCBs," she said.

"The NEPA, as a body only to implement the flawed
legislation, will not be any more independent of the ministry
than other so-called autonomous bodies set up by it in the
past," she said.

In a letter to Ramesh, they have pointed that "even if
the NEPA is given statutory powers it will work with an
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification which allows
for rapid (and necessarily faulty) assessments, quick (and
necessarily incomplete) appraisals."

Supreme Court lawyer Ritwik Dutta was of the opinion that
unless flaws in the existing laws were removed no purpose will
be served by setting up a new body like NEPA.


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