The government of India has appointed a Green Law Panel to review archaic laws related to forestry and environment. Some of the acts are so old that they deserve to be archived rather than being implemented.
The acts which will fall under the purview of the commission headed by TSR Subramaniam are:
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
- Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
- Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
- Environment (Protection) Act , 1986
The commission which will submit its report in two months (was setup in august 2014) will recommend how to amend existing laws in light of various court orders. It has been a long standing demand to amend the Wildlife (Protection) Act, to ensure that it is in compliance with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
As per the Forest (Conservation Act), 1980, conversion of forest land to non-forest use is not allowed without consent of the Centre. However, the MoEF has given approval generally to all road-projects in border and naxal areas.
MoEF’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has cleared field-trials for certain GM-crops. But the minutes of the meeting not published. Government has also diluted the public hearing requirements for Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
Environmentalists fear that the recommendations maybe used to dilute the provisions of the acts to render them industry friendly. The current government has also been criticised for a range of other measures such as reconstitution of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) without NGO members. The government has also eased the environment clearance procedure on coal projects.
It remains to be seen if the amended versions will be pro industry or pro environment.