Environment Ministry reports reduction in environmental clearance time from 150 to 90 days
The Environment Ministry has informed that, as part of a move to simplify the clearance process for ease of doing business, the time to receive environmental clearances has been reduced significantly from over 150 days in 2019 to less than 90 days in 2021. The ministry has also developed PARIVESH, a Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System for automating various environmental clearance procedures.
However, according to researchers, reducing clearance times does not benefit conservation. Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer, says that “the mission of the environment ministry is to protect the environment. How is it an achievement if they have reduced time to grant EC by not improving monitoring and infrastructure?” Another expert, Kanchi Kohli, a legal researcher noted “The Environment ministry is assessing its measure of success through rates and dates of approvals, it is no longer about how much area has been protected from degradation or how much environmental damage has been remedied.”
Madhya Pradesh tops the list of states to approve forest land for non-forestry purposes in 2020-21
In a response to the query in the Lok Sabha, the Environment Ministry has informed that a total of 82,893.61 ha of forest land has been approved for non-forestry use under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, from April 2016 to March 2021.
The Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife has also recommended 206 proposals, encompassing 4,118.109067 ha of protected areas during the 2020 and 2021 period. Among the States and UTs, Jammu and Kashmir had the least forest area (1.20 ha) approved in 2020-21 while Madhya Pradesh had the highest, with 19638.41 ha being approved for diversion.
Environmentalists have criticised this massive diversion, which is made in the name of ease of doing business. (The Hindu)
Draft CRZ notification: Local communities and experts fear of a potential threat
In November, the Union Environment Ministry published the draft notification to amend the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2019. Over 100 fishing community members and fishers’ organisations including Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti, Vadarai Machhimar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society Ltd, and gram panchayats of Satpati and Mahim villages in Palghar district of Maharashtra have issued objection letters urging the environment ministry to withdraw the draft notification.
The draft notification has proposed amendments for allowing temporary beach shacks to be retained during the monsoon season, allowing sand bars to be removed by coastal communities, and exempting prior clearance for development and production of oil and natural gas. Experts fear that the proposed amendments will not only disrupt the ecology of these areas, but will also increase the risk of environmental damage.
Government rejects Andhra and Telangana's request not to include all irrigation projects under river boards
The Ministry of Jal Shakti issued a gazette notification in July 2021 bringing 36 projects in the Krishna basin and 71 in the Godavari basin under the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and Godavari River Management Board (GRMB), respectively. As per the ministry, the projects in the respective river basins are interlinked and cannot be viewed separately; hence, the river management boards should oversee the projects.
However, both state governments have objected to the gazette notifications and suggest that only projects which are common to the two states, should be included in the board's purview. But, the ministry informed that if any project has to be given any exemption, it requires necessary amendments to the Act by Parliament.
Disaster management: Odisha makes participation of panchayat members obligatory
A new ordinance enforcing mandatory participation of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) representatives in disaster management activities has been promulgated by the Odisha government to amend the Odisha Gram Panchayat Act 1964, Odisha Panchayat Samiti Act, 1959, and Odisha Zilla Parshad Act, 1991.
Formerly, the government would issue executive orders from time to time to PRI members so they could participate. Now, they are legally part and parcel of disaster management plans at the village level.
Along with this, the clause on the preparation of disaster management plan at village and Grama Panchayat level has also been inserted under Section 44 of OGP Act 1964. (The Hindu)
This is a roundup of important policy matters from December 21 – January 4, 2021. Also, read news this fortnight.