The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to establish a national regulator for environmental clearances. The apex regulator will supervise grant of clearances and implementation of forest policy and environmental laws. The apex court has given the Centre time till March 31 to appoint the regulator and set up offices in “as many States” as possible under Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
Why does the Supreme Court want a national regulator for green clearances?
It has come to the notice of the apex court that the current mechanism under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification dated September 14, 2006, issued by the Government with regard to processing, appraisals, and approval of the projects for environmental clearance is deficient in many respects. It, therefore, felt the need for a regulator at the national level with its offices in all the States which can conduct an independent, objective and transparent appraisal and approval of the projects for environmental clearances which can also monitor the implementation of the conditions laid down in the environmental clearances.
How may this decision affect Centre’s power?
The granting of environmental clearances has so far remained a suspect due to absolute Government control over Forest Advisory Committees, entrusted under the Act to oversee adherence to environmental norms. The latest decision will not only deprive the Centre of its arbitrary power to take decisions on projects, but would also ensure that those found guilty of violations are awarded sizeable penalties under the “polluter pays” principle.
What is the reaction of MoEF over this decision?
The MoEF has strongly objected to this direction as it believes that it would not be feasible for a single authority with limited number of experts to look into the diverse and inter-linked nature of issues involved in the grant of environment clearances to various categories of projects. It further says that the volume of work being dealt by six expert advisory panels could not be done by single regulator, instead, it may result in financial pressure on the government exchequer which otherwise could be utilized to strengthen the existing regulatory mechanism.