High Level Committee on Review of Environmental Laws headed by former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian submitted its report to Union Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change on 18 November 2014.
The committee recommended formulating a new umbrella law to streamline the process of environment clearances for development projects in the country.
Main recommendations of the Committee
• It proposed new Environment Loss Management Act (ELMA).
• It recommended full-time expert bodies, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and State Environment Management Authority (SEMA), to be constituted at the Central and state levels respectively.
• The NEMA and SEMA recommended to evaluate project clearance (using technology and expertise), in a time bound manner, providing for single window clearance.
• A fast track procedure for linear projects (roads, railways and transmission lines), power and mining projects and for the projects of national importance has been prescribed in the new mechanism.
• The committee has suggested amendments to almost all green laws, including those relating to environment, forest, wildlife and coastal zone clearances.
• It also recommended that an environmental reconstruction cost should be assessed for each project on the basis of the damage caused by it to the environment and should be dovetailed with the cost of the project.
• An Environment Reconstruction Fund is proposed to be established for accumulation of this cost and other penalties recovered from projects.
• The report also proposes a National Environment Research institute on the lines of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education to bring in the application of high-end technology in environment governance.
• The committee has not suggested any major changes in the forest laws but has recommended revision of the compensatory afforestation policy.
• It has suggested that the area for compensatory afforestation in the revenue land should be doubled from the current one hectare for each hectare of forestland diverted to non-forest use for development projects.
• The committee also recommends identification of no go forest areas – primarily with over 70 per cent canopy cover and protected areas— which shall not be disturbed except in exceptional circumstances and that too only with the prior approval of the Union Cabinet.
• The committee also recommended increasing the net present value (NPV) of the forest paid by the project proponents for diversion of forests to five times of what it is today.
• The committee has also recommended reducing power of National Green Tribunal (NGT). It suggests district-level courts to decide on infringement of environmental laws.
About the Subramanian committee
The Committee was constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 29 August 2014 to review the processes, laws and Acts of the Ministry.
The committee was constituted to review the key environment laws—
• Environment Protection Act (EPA) of 1986
• Forest Conservation Act (FCA) of 1980
• Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) of 1972
• The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974
• The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981
• Later, the Indian Forest Act (IFA) of 1927, the colonial law which governs the forest administration in the country, was also added to the list of laws for the committee to review.
What: submitted its report
When: 18 November 2014