PM for environmental clearance sans `permit raj`

PM Singh said an independent regulator would soon revamp the process and help protect ecology without bringing back "the hated license permit raj".

New Delhi: In the backdrop of the
controversy over environmental clearances to major projects,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday said an independent
regulator would soon revamp the process and help protect
ecology without bringing back "the hated license permit raj".

"We 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," Singh said.

He was speaking at a seminar on "Global Environment
and Disaster Management: Law and Society" here.

The move to establish this authority appears to have
come in the wake of stalling of several industrial and
mining projects after the Environment Ministry, till recently
led by Jairam Ramesh, had refused to clear the project.

The Prime Minister also expressed the hope that in
future there would not be much litigation in projects due to
environmental issues.

"I must also mention that but for the enduring wisdom
of our judiciary, we would not have the bulk of what we
proudly call `environmental jurisprudence`," Singh said.

He maintained that in the 1990s, due to rapid
industrialisation brought about by economic liberalisation
there was a threat of depletion of natural resources. But the
judiciary had ensured there was no compromise on this issue.

"Over all, a major challenge ahead is to put in place
a legal and regulatory framework which is effective in
protecting the environment but without bringing back the hated
license permit raj of the pre-1991 period," Singh said.

Singh also hailed the new "comprehensive law" which
established a specialised Tribunal for settlement of a "broad
spectrum of environmental cases of civil nature".

"We have 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.

The Prime Minister insisted that the Disaster Management
Act, 2005 had enabled the setting up of institutional
mechanisms for disaster preparedness and mitigation.

He said as a signatory to the International Charter on
Space and Major Charters, India extends its space capabilities
to acquire data of the location of disasters anywhere on the
globe and share the same with the affected countries.

Singh claimed that in the last four years, the
government has formulated a national agenda for environmental
protection to meet the challenges of disaster management and
climate change.

"Our mission for sustainable habitat will develop
standards for green buildings which we intend to make integral
to our municipal laws," he said.

The UPA-II government has a target for greening 10
million hectares of forest land to increase incomes of the
poor through a national Green India Mission.

"Action for generating over 20,000 MW of solar energy
by the year 2020 is underway," he said.

Through sustainable agriculture and water conservation,
the government aims to increase productivity of dry land
agriculture and increase efficiency of water use.

"All these steps will cumulatively lead us to a low
carbon growth path," Singh said.

The Prime Minister said till now the public felt there
is a trade-off between economic growth and environmental
sustainability but now growth accommodates environmental

"There is now general agreement that environment cannot
be protected by perpetuating the poverty of developing
countries. Their basic concern is with development and this is
as it should be.

"But it is also no longer acceptable to take as given
that a certain degree of environmental degradation and
over-exploitation of natural resources in the cause of
promoting growth is inevitable," Singh said.

He maintained that it is no longer possible to treat
the environment with "passive disregard".

"And it is no longer tenable to pretend that these are
concerns only for the other or wealthier nations," he said.


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