Environment regulatory body soon

Environment regulatory body soon

"The idea behind NEPA is to create an independent professional regulatory institution that would be responsible for monitoring and compliance of environmental standards," Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference here.
NEPA is envisaged to take over the job of giving environmental clearances from the ministry.

The NEPA proposal has been sent to state governments for their comments, and is up on the ministry's website for comments from the public. Ramesh said the ministry would receive feedback till Oct 20, and would table a bill in the winter session of parliament.
Conceptualised on the lines of the US Environment Protection Authority, NEPA would be an executive body that would complement the judicial National Green Tribunal for which a bill had already been tabled, Ramesh said. "Environmental governance should rest on three pillars - the ministry, NEPA and the green tribunal."

The minister added: "I believe this will be a major step forward in strengthening the executive. In the field of environmental governance, due to executive weaknesses in the last 15-20 years, the judiciary has stepped in in a big way. We welcome that, but the government cannot abdicate environmental governance to courts."

"NEPA should have been set up in 1986 (when the Environment Protection Act was passed). We have a very powerful Act but a very weak system to implement it."
The proposal has four options on the structure of NEPA:

* Create a national environment monitoring authority focussed on compliance and enforcement;
* Create a full-fledged NEPA that subsumes the Central POllution Control Board (CPCB);
* Create a NEPA, with a separate CPCB continuing to report to the ministry; and
* Create a NEPA, with CPCB reporting to it.

Ramesh said NEPA would depend more on fiscal incentives and disincentives than on inspectors to implement pollution control laws.

The ministry would also look at the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process through which all environmental clearances for projects were given, he added.

"The (current) EIA process leaves a lot to be desired. I'm not very happy with the project proponent getting his favoured consultant to do the EIA. We're discussing the mater with the National Quality Council of India and are thinking of introducing a rating or pre-qualification system for EIA consultants."

The ministry had already started taking a wider approach to environmental clearances, including the entire river basin where the project was located, Ramesh said. "For example, all clearances are on hold in the North Teesta basin of Sikkim." Five power generation and other industrial projects had been proposed there.