India needs to get its environment management right
The government must ensure a transparent and collaborative effort for framing a new law, which puts the environment and people at the forefront.
Two reports related to India’s environmental management, published in this newspaper on Wednesday, raise more questions than answers. First, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) for the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas, set up in October 2020, became non-functional last week after the ordinance constituted for it lapsed. Managing the problem will now be entrusted to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and state pollution control boards (SPCBs), even though this is an inter-state issue and CPCB and SPCBs don’t have the financial and human resources to tackle it effectively. The Centre also failed to come up with a sound explanation for the scrapping of CAQM and its plans to tackle air pollution, even as new data released by a Swiss organisation, IQAir, said that 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are in India.
Second, India could soon have a single law governing air, water, and environment-related activities. The TSR Subramaniam Committee, which was set up in 2014, proposed a new model umbrella law, Environment Law (Management Act) or ELMA, incorporating the concept of “utmost good faith” where applicants of environment or forest clearance are responsible for their statements.
This self-certification on the environmental impact of a project is untenable because the company may not know the impact or choose not to reveal it. While the implementation of green laws has been weak, the proposed dilution of the precautionary principle is even more unfair to victims of pollution. The government must ensure a transparent and collaborative effort for framing a new law, which puts the environment and people at the forefront.