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Draft environment policy comes under attack

Pramod Mellegatti

Stakeholders should have been involved in the exercise: greens


  • Policy termed `utilitarian centric'
  • Environmental regulations diluted
  • Make State's Eco-tourism Act a model
  • Strict action against polluters sought
  • Need for new draft policy highlighted



    Pitching a tent: An encroachment in the forest area of the Western Ghats.

    SHIMOGA: The draft National Environment Policy has come in for sharp criticism from environmentalists who say that it has been prepared by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests without much participation of or consultation with the "stakeholders."

    They have emphasised that a "bottom to top approach" be adopted to redraft the National Environment Policy on the lines of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP).

    Ananth Hegde Ashishar, convenor of the Vriksha Laksha Andolana (VLA), a voluntary environmental organisation, told The Hindu that since the National Environment Policy could have far-reaching implications in the enforcement of the Acts related to environment it is essential to highlight the vision and the ideology behind the laws related to environment before a fresh policy is finalised.

    The workshop, Mr. Ashishar said, suggested that a national institute of repute such as the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science or the Indian Institute for Forest Management, Bhopal, be asked to draft a new National Environment Policy on the lines of the NBSAP.

    Fresh exercise

    "The current draft of the National Environment Policy of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests may only be considered as an input in a fresh exercise," it felt. Mr. Ashishar said the workshop viewed the basic philosophy of the draft National Environment Policy as "utilitarian centric" with the environment being considered a mere raw material supplier to the development as it seems to have been driven by international obligations in the wake of globalisation.

    The workshop, Mr. Ashishar said, noted that in the conflict between environmental interests versus developmental interests the latter seem to have taken the upper hand. The basic philosophy of the National Environment Policy needs to be changed and "environmental security" should be given prime importance.

    Biodiversity

    The workshop felt that not all the components of the environment have been clearly focussed in the draft and as such it has failed to identify the importance of biodiversity documentation and its characterisation in the era of intellectual property rights, he said. It pointed out that on the pretext of streamlining and decentralising some of the environmental regulations have been diluted. Ridiculing the term "polluter pays" mentioned in the draft, the workshop, Mr. Ashishar said, felt that in principle it could be misused by the polluting multinational companies by paying peanuts as penalty for the huge pollution caused by them.

    Contradictions

    The participants, Mr. Ashishar said, recognised several contradictions with the National Environment Policy.

    It pointed out that while the individual river basin development has been given importance in the draft, the Union Government has been seriously thinking about river linking.

    It also pointed out that while the draft talks about empowering the people residing inside forests it also argues for the resettlement of local people to conserve the biodiversity hotspots which seemingly contradict the points which need to be properly addressed in the redraft.

    Punitive steps

    "The punitive and corrective actions for pollution need to be spelt out in the draft," it said and pointed out that direct mitigating measures to protect the ecosystem need to be clearly spelt out in the draft. The workshop suggested that the Eco-tourism Act of the Government of Karnataka be taken as a model while formulating the provisions on eco-tourism. It said that the power to review the National Environment Policy as well as its implementation should not rest with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs alone.

    It suggested that a separate environmental commission be constituted for the purpose.

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