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Now, penal action against those breaking green laws

New Delhi: Violating environmental laws and getting away with only fines would soon be a thing of the past as a high-level committee formed to review India’s green laws has recommended penal and criminal action against such defaulters.

Now, penal action against those breaking green laws

The high-level committee (HLC), which was formed in August to review India’s six major environmental laws, submitted its report on Tuesday recommending a “major overhaul” of the environment sector of the country with a special focus on regulation of the sector, simplification of procedures, monitoring of green clearances given to industry and creation of new law for penalising those violating environmental laws.

In the nearly 100-page report, the four-member committee headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian has recommended a series of measures for the complete overhaul of the environment sector and has also given a 20-year vision for the sector. It suggests ways to end inspector raj in the environmental sector, bring in more transparency and cut down on delays in green clearances.

“Some of the measures suggested in the report are like bringing a new law whose one major focus relates to strict penal actions against those found violating environmental regulations. Creation of a national environmental sciences laboratory (on the lines of national forensics laboratory) is also one of the suggestions,” top sources of the union ministry of environment and forests told dna.

Sources said the report also talks about creation of a “National Environment Management Agency and a “National Environment Protection Agency”.

“Creation of an Indian Environmental Service on the lines of Indian Administrative Service or Indian Foreign Service is another major suggestion made in the report. It also suggest ways to end inspector raj in the environment regulation sector,” sources added.

Sources further explained that the committee basically tried to “strike a fine balance between environment protection and development as it felt that both are impossible without each other”.

TSR Subramanian, who headed the HLC, also spoke to dna and confirmed that the report is talking about major changes in the rules and procedures to overhaul the environment sector.

“The report is basically giving a 20-year-plan for the environment sector. Report is talking about overall reforms in environmental sector, about improving forest cover in the country, about improving environmental clearance process, changes required in laws and rules amidst other things,” said Subramanian while adding that they have also suggested enactment of a new law.

“We have recommended a new law to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of green laws. We found that as of now the monitoring system is very weak and there is no deterrence. People violating green laws are not prosecuted and there is no punishment,” said Subramanian.

He further explained that their thrust was on better implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, proper monitoring, fixing responsibility of defaulters and punishment to those found violating such environmental laws.

HLC under chairmanship of Subramanian was formed on August 29 to “review and suggest amendments” in the six main environment laws of the country — 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 the Indian Forest Act 1927 — to bring them in line with current requirements.

The committee was asked to assess the status of implementation of the six Acts, to examine and take into account various court orders regarding these Acts, to recommend specific amendments needed in those six Acts to bring them in line with current requirements and to draft proposed amendments in each of the six Acts to give effect to the proposed recommendations.

The report was submitted to the environment minister Prakash Javadekar Tuesday afternoon who later clarified that the government would “take a final call on the HLC report within one month”.

“It is a historic achievement. We will analyse the report and soon decide on recommendations of the report ensuring both environment protection and conservation and development,” said Javadekar while adding that bringing in transparency and accountability, responsibility on the project proponents and avoiding delays in green clearances is a major part of this effort.

The environment minister Prakash Javadekar said that monitoring process which at present is near negligible would be taken to nearly 100 per cent.

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