Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Govt. of India
Subject: Objections to the Proposed Draft Environment Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015
With due respect to the expertise of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, I strongly object the environment laws amendment bill 2015 as proposed by your office. It lacks scientific and basic understanding of environment and off-course the intention seems to be diluting the existing provisions under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 which I could not appreciate. Following are my quick objections on the draft:
- First of all, we have been given just 15 days for raising our objection. Is your Ministry under an assumption that we will open the website of MOEFCC as a daily routine and do you really think that 15 days is enough timeline to send our objections in detail? Given the kind of amendments you are proposing in some of the crucial acts, and if you are really serious of including our views you must have given us adequate time to think over the draft, discuss with our colleagues and send you detailed comments. Unfortunately, the deadline was too short and hence this short representation to you.
- I strongly condemn the categorization of the damages as ‘substantial damage', ‘minor violation’ and ‘non-substantial damage’. This is not only without any justification and backed by any scientific explanation-this would complicate our rights to get justice as the main argument will be whether the violation is minor, substantial or non-substantial. For us, any act which can alter the basic biological, chemical and physical properties of environment is substantial enough to cause damage to the environment.
- The intensity of penalty must be based on how much damage the violator has caused and how much efforts will be required to compensate the loss. We cannot put a cap over the amount of penalty a violator is liable to pay. I am also doubtful that whether any robust calculations are available with the Ministry while putting the penalty amounts. In such case, how MOEFCC concluded on the penalty amounts for violations is highly unconvincing.
- It is very unclear about the constitution of the adjudicating authority which seems to be like an additional layer to National Green Tribunal and obviously there are further clarifications needed like why it is created? How the Selection Committee will appoint the adjudicating authority? Whether this Selection Committee will be independent enough from the government? Etc etc.. on which this amendment bill is completely silent.
I am very much disappointed with the direction to which the Ministry is proceeding and whether they are really meant for protection and improvement of the nation’s environment and natural resources. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change must not see the public consultations as a mere formality and it is it's duty to give us proper opportunity to raise our objections. I hereby express my strong objection to this draft environment laws (amendment) bill, 2015 and also request the Ministry to provide us at least 45 days more if it is really sincere about comments from different stakeholders.
Vindhyan Ecology and Natural History Foundation
This letter was first published on Vindhya Bachao.