The government has refuted environmentalists’ allegations that key green laws in the country would be “diluted”. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar says his aim is to improve and smoothen environmental clearance processes by bringing in them “clarity and openness” without compromising on green issues.

Javadekar, who has indicated his keenness to bring about amendments to legislations during the upcoming Budget Session, says he is still studying the recommendations of the TSR Subramanian report and nothing has been finalised. “The report has not been adopted, it has just been put on the ministry’s website for comments. How can they (environmentalists) talk of dilution when the laws have not even been drafted? They should wait for the final drafts before reacting,” he says.

Though the government is keen to amend green laws, these are unlikely to be introduced in the form of ordinances. The government wants the laws to be discussed in Parliament, officials say. “The aim is to bring clarity in law and process and reduce the court’s intervention in matters related to clearances. Linking the Subramanian committee report to laws is wrong. The report is in public domain. Anyone can see it and give their opinion on it. The standing committee also has its own opinion and rights,” said an official.

The high-powered committee under former Cabinet secretary Subramanian was set up by the Narendra Modi government to assess the existing environment and forest laws and recommend amendments “to bring them in line with changing times”.

These include the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972; Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

In a deposition before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Forests, Science and Technology recently, several environmental groups criticised the recommendations of the panel as “counter-productive to the cause of environment”. The BJP-led dispensation is already under attack for “diluting” laws such as the Land Acquisition Act and any change in environmental laws is expected to be fiercely contested by the Opposition in Parliament.

Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh