National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA) on the anvil
Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Environment and Forests released a 10 Page Discussion Paper titled
"TOWARDS EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE:PROPOSAL FOR A NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AUTHORITY", for comments highlighting a proposal for the creation of a new body tentatively called the National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA). This shall be an autonomous body manned by professionals and shall perform two main functions, notes a PIB release dated September 17, 2009.
One is the grant of Environmental clearances currently being done by the Ministry and the second is national stewardship for compliance and enforcement of environmental laws. Alongwith the proposed National Green Tribunal this initiative is a part of a bigger model of effective environmental governance.
The aim of this discussion paper is to initiate a serious exercise for institutional redesign and to invite comment from stakeholders. The paper puts forth the various models that can be used to structure and position the Environment Protection Authority within the environmental regulatory framework of the country.
This is meant to be an important component of a more effective regime for environmental governance. The discussion paper puts forth various options for the operationalization of the NEPA. This paper also delineates the options as to how the Central and State Pollution Control Boards could work in harmony and synergy with the new regime.
Notably, NEPA is proposed to be modelled on the US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA).
The discussion paper refers to the Kalpavriksh's recent study titled “Revealing the state of monitoring and compliance of environmental clearance conditions”, which brings to the fore the existing weaknesses in the current compliance mechanism.
The paper takes note of the the lacuna in terms of an appropriate regulatory framework highlighted by the Madras High Court, which observed in the case of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board v. The State Human Rights Commission (decided on 04.11.2004) “…there is an urgent need for enactment
of a general resolution on environmental pollution which inter alia should enable co-ordination of activities of various regulatory agencies, creation of authority or authorities with advocate powers for environmental protection, regulation of discharge of environmental pollutants and handling of hazardous substances, speedy response in the event of accidents threatening environment and deterrent punishment to those who endanger human environment safety and health.”
Prime Minister in his address during the ‘National Conference of Ministers of Environment & Forests’, on August 18, 2009, had also suggested that the Government should consider the setting up of a National Environment Protection Authority supported by regional Environment Protection Authorities.
The paper notes the five key principles for the establishment of the NEPA, namely, it should be a statutory body, created through the parliamentary process, it will be truly autonomous of the MoEF, equipped with substantial budget, and with powers to make its own procedures, it should be professionally managed, drawing upon best-in-class expertise from all relevant professional fields including applied sciences, economics, law, etc. Its Board Members and CEO should be appointed for a fixed tenure, it should have original powers conferred upon it under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and its working will subscribe to the “polluter-pays “precautionary principle”.
The paper suggests four options with regard to the design of the proposed NEPA. It invites written comments on the discussion paper to the following: Mr Rajneesh Dube: email@example.com and Mr Varad Pande: firstname.lastname@example.org
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