India seeks environment agency

The International Charter is assisting the Indian Environment and Forest Ministry as it seeks to establish a US-type independent and autonomous body of specialists for effective environment governance, according to a discussion paper released by its minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday.

Along with the proposed National Green Tribunal, the initiative of setting up a National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA) is part of a bigger model of effective environment governance, Jairam told a press conference.

He said the 10-page discussion paper would help in the institutional redesigning for environment enforcement, a front on which the government has failed. It puts forth various models that can be used to structure and position the environment protection authority within the regulatory framework of the country.

The paper delineates four options as to how the Central and State Pollution Control Boards could work in harmony with the new regime.
It says the proposed authority should be professionally managed, drawing upon the best expertise from all relevant professional fields including applied sciences, economics, law, etc.
The paper points out that the judiciary, which played a major role in the enforcement of environmental laws, had brought out the weaknesses in the government agencies' efforts to implement India's "progressive environmental laws", and hence the need of an independent authority to undertake the task.

The paper points out that the ministry's workload had increased several folds in recent years, with the number and complexity of projects received for environment clearance, while its capacity remained limited and as such the clearances were over-delayed.

The Central and State Pollution Control boards had also failed, as they did not have the capacity or resources to ensure compliance with various environmental regulations, the paper said.