Green laws, elections

In the final year of its term, the government is working to reform the country’s major environmental laws related to fragile coastal, forest and air pollution.

This is the last stop of the current Indian government term and began in 2014. As the election approaches, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been overactive in the past year, proposing major reforms to the country’s environmental law. Manage its forests, fragile shores, precious wildlife and manage toxic air pollution levels.

Once the proposed changes are finalized, they will be the cornerstone of India’s environmental sector policy for at least the next two decades. However, environmentalists say that these changes have been proposed rapidly in succession to avoid comprehensive and detailed counseling among all stakeholders and to speed up the finalization process.

They also claim that the proposed changes are not focused on protecting and protecting the environment, but are considering making the environmental law easier to promote the industry – a commitment made by PM Modi before the 2014 election.

Modifying the country’s green laws is not new to the current government. Since taking office in May 2014, it has implemented a series of changes related to environmental law. However, it has not been able to launch any big plans. Since the election is now scheduled for the first half of 2019, the government has begun to implement large-scale reforms.

Land, water and air

In October 2017, the government completed India’s third National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-31). The first such plan was adopted in 1983, and the second plan ended in 2002 and ended in 2016.

Three Action Plans proposed by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board on Forests, Coastal Zone and Air Pollution are very important to the Government and is the focus of the country’s Environmental Regulations and applies to many development activities of the Government.

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in India announced in March 2018 a series of major changes outlined in the 2018 National Forest Policy (NFP) draft. The Ministry has sought the advice of experts and all other stakeholders. By April 14, 2018, the draft was criticized by activists who stated that the proposed reforms were only the beginning of the private sector’s entry into the forestry sector. Once finalized, this policy will be important for India’s forest sector as it will be the overall document for forest management in the next 25-30 years.

The first NFP came into force in 1952 and the second version was passed in 1988. Currently, the second edition has taken effect. The latest draft is in line with the government’s vision that India’s forest and tree cover covers 33%.

According to a senior official of the MoEFCC Forest Sector, a series of replies to the NFP 2018 draft have been received, including responses from political parties (mainly left-wing parties). “These recommendations, comments and recommendations are being reviewed and will be completed shortly in the next few months. We will address all the issues raised,” the official said.

However, this is not the first attempt to update NFP, as the project’s efforts began shortly after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government took office in May 2014. A version of the draft non-agricultural employment report was launched in 2016 but the government later withdrew the draft.

“This is not the first time that environmental law has been diluted. In recent years, the government has been working hard to weaken green laws. The National Wildlife Policy of 2018 is a reconstructed reform proposed to open the forest for the private sector. These changes are strongly opposed. Now, the new national forestry policies seek to privatize the forest. “Said Tuszar Dash, a forestry expert and activist with Orissa’s tribes and the forest.

He stressed that one of the main concerns of activists like him is that the government is trying to weaken green laws through administrative orders.

“We are very concerned about the serial dilution that has been done, and on the ground, it is affecting the tribe. Not only is the law weakening, but the government also weakens the system. For example, the Federal Ministry of Horticulture (MoTA) points out its power – as “forest The Doctrine of the Bill of Rights (2006) – diluted by unilateral policy decisions and regulations proposed by the Ministry of the Environment, without any negotiation of MoTA,” Dash explained.

In addition to forests, India’s 7,500-kilometer coastline is also eyeing the government’s desire to replace the 2011 Coastal Zone (CRZ) notice. The Ministry of the Environment announced the CRZ 2018 notice in April this year, so that interested stakeholders interested in 60 days to submit their recommendations.

The first CRZ notice on the Indian coast was introduced in 1991 and was subsequently replaced by an updated version in 2011.

According to environmentalists, the latest CRZ announcement in 2018 proposes the opening of beaches for industry, real estate sales and tourism. However, many are not surprised. The proposed changes are all for Modi’s major projects for marinas and homes.

For example, according to the Sagarmala plan, more than 400 projects related to port modernization, new port development, port connectivity enhancement and port-related industrialization were identified during 2015-2035, with an estimated cost of Rs. 8 trillion.

“With regard to the CRZ draft and the forest policy, there are certainly some major problems, such as the privatization of forests, the increased pollution of industries and ports in coastal areas. They are clearly designed to encourage more investment. They clearly focus on a further alienation of vulnerable communities. And managing the development of their own resources,” said Nandikesh Sivalingam, a senior activist at Greenpeace India.

Environmentalists who have been paying close attention to the ongoing changes in the government believe that not only are the ongoing wide-ranging changes worrying, but the government has been modifying the rules in the name of the public without public consultation interest.

“What’s worse is that a number of amendments are being issued in the name of the public interest and depriving citizens of the opportunity to participate in these changes, which can exempt specific types of projects from approval. This approach only allows citizens to stay away from the government, Kanchi Kohli, director of legal research at the Center for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environmental Justice Project, said.

The same is true of the Indian government’s first National Clean Air Program (NCAP). In order to solve the problem of air pollution toxicity in almost all major Indian cities and rural areas, the proposed national action plan was finally announced in April 2018, after many years of hints and shouts. It was commented on before May 17 and is still in the final stages of preparation. Although this is a good start, the experts call it a toothless and non-directional plan because it does not set a goal to reduce urban pollution.

Changes in green law always exist

However, these steps cannot be viewed in isolation. If Prime Minister Modi’s promise before the 2014 election is about to pass, then these changes will always exist. Just before the May 2014 election, Modi has turned the slow pace of green customs clearance – the environment, forests, wildlife and coastal areas – into an electoral issue, indicating that this delay has caused critical infrastructure projects to stagnate. Delayed the growth of India.

If voting supports power, he promised to completely change the scene. Once elected, the NLD government is fully committed to changing green laws. Even the large changes currently being made are related to the efforts of the current government in the first year.

For example, when the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) was started in August 2014 to change the environmental regulations, the Industrial Association took into account the list of the 60 action hotlines presented by the Industrial Industries Federation of India. Environment cleaning industry. During the next six months, all these changes were made by the government.

At the same time, the government established a high-level committee led by former cabinet minister T.S.R. Subramanian “reviews and proposes amendments” in the country’s six major environmental laws – Environmental (Protection) Act of 1986, Forest (Protection) Act of 1980, Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, “Water (Pollution Prevention)” Act, 1974, 1981 “Air (Contamination Prevention) Act” and “1927 Indian Forest Act” – and updated according to current requirements.

As of November 2014, the committee submitted a report recommending dozens of changes to the country’s green laws, with particular emphasis on simplifying the rules and reducing delays in green customs clearance. It also proposes an umbrella environment law. The report was strongly opposed because the report was allegedly made in a hurry without consultation. Although the Commission’s report has never been fully actioned, some changes have been made over the years. The report was also rejected by the Standing Committee of the Parliament.

Why is this fast?

Sanjay Upadhyay, a senior environmental lawyer at the Supreme Court of India, cautioned against rushing. “Come on slowly. The environment we are dealing with is not human creation, but a gift to the earth. Therefore, any reform that has an impact on the environment must be carefully considered, not rushed to think. More importantly, People who understand the local industry need to be involved,” Uppadyay said.

In 2014, when the NDA government established the National Wildlife Commission (NBWL), there were no necessary number of NGO representatives and well-known ecologists as members. Upadhyay questioned it in the Supreme Court. He won the case and forced the government to rebuild NBWL with the required number of experts.

The government is eager to revise environmental regulations and has faced multiple cases in the National Green Court. In some cases, the government had to go back to the drawing board. However, it remains to be seen whether the government’s final efforts in the election year will succeed or eventually fall into the court.

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