Union Environment Ministry is likely to finalise the amendments to the six green laws by October this year after consultations with legal experts and stakeholders. Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the recommendations of the High Level Committee (HLC) which was constituted to review the six environmental laws was a “major” input but clarified that it does not mean that the government has accepted all the 55 recommendations.
“We have done due deliberations with many ministries, stakeholders. We have already appointed a law and management firm and both have looked into the best practises of countries like US, UK, China, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa. We have seen their laws. “It has found out the assessment report and the gaps in laws as to what is needed and how much change there should be. We will do political processing as to what changes finally has to be made. Then there will be a draft. That should be ready by October. We are doing scientifically,” he said.
This comes after a Parliamentary panel chaired by Congress MP Ashwani Kumar recently recommended the formation of a new committee to consider afresh specific areas of environmental policy after it found the objections raised by experts on the proposals of HLC as “valid”. The Standing Committee on Science and Technology and Environment and Forest in its report said three months given to the HLC to review six green laws was “too short” and there was no cogent reason for hurrying through with the report without comprehensive and meaningful consultations with stakeholders.
“Standing committee has given many reports which we have taken seriously. We value the standing committee mechanism. Every report we are scanning and examining seriously. Whatever good recommendations are made, we will taken them on board and work accordingly. Where there are differences, still we will have dialogue,” Javadekar said. The Environment Ministry had in August last year formed a HLC headed by TSR Subramanian to review six key green laws concerning protection and conservation of environment, forest, wildlife, water and air. .
The HLC had submitted its report in November last and the recommendations witnessed widespread criticism as it was hurriedly prepared and lacked consultations. These laws include Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Indian Forest Act 1927. Meanwhile in another development, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has asked ministry officials to replace the word ‘diversion’ of forest land with ‘reforestation’ in all communications.
Sources in the Environment Ministry said that when the word diversion is used, it connotes that the forest land has gone which was not the case. “Its a positive mindset. Its the real expression of what is happening on ground. Additional non-forest land is becoming forest land. Diversion only gives one meaning that the land has only gone. Now. The land for forest also comes back,” a source said. He said that everytime approval is given for some project in forest area, two actions happen. Equal amount of non-forest land has to be given by the project proponent to the forest.
The land is then mutated in the name of forest and becomes a forest land which is additional. “Last one year, we have added 20,000 ha of forest land. That needs to be green which is the second part of it. For this, he pays for compensatory afforestation,” the source added. Sources said that as per a communication circulated within the Environment Ministry, it was said that the Minister has desired that all communication with the word ‘Clearance’ should be replaced by “Approval with Adequate Environmental Safeguards” and the word ‘Diversion’ should be replaced by ‘Reforestation’.
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