[Editorial] Indian Environmental Service

What the editorial is about?

Recommendations of T.S.R. Subramanian committee on environmental regulation in India.

Context:

Recently, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to establish a dedicated Indian Environment Service (IES) at the all-India level while hearing a petition calling for the creation of an all-India service for the environmental sector as recommended by a committee headed by former Cabinet secretary T.S.R Subramanian in 2014.

Most probable and repeated topics of upsc prelims

TSR Subramanian Committee Report on Environment

  • The Subramanian committee was set up in August 2014 to review the country’s green laws and the procedures followed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • It suggested several amendments to align with the Government’s economic development agenda.
  • The report had suggested amendments to almost all green laws, including those relating to the environment, forest, wildlife and coastal zone clearances.
  • The committee suggested that another committee, with more expertise and time, be constituted to review the environmental laws.

Major Recommendations

Expanding Environment Protection Act

  • The Air Act and the Water Act is to be subsumed within the EP Act.
  • The existing Central Pollution Control Board and the State PCBs, which monitor and regulate the conditions imposed on the industries to safeguard the environment be integrated into NEMA and SEMA.

Formation of Environment Management Authorities

  • The report proposed an ‘Environmental Laws (Management) Act’ (ELMA), that envisioned full-time expert bodies to be constituted at the Central and State levels respectively: National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) State Environmental Management Authority (SEMA)

Evaluating Environmental Reconstruction Cost (ERC)

  • The report also recommends that an “ERC” should be assessed for each project on the basis of the damage caused by it to the environment and this should be added to the cost of the project.
  • This cost has to be recovered as a cess or duty from the project proponent during the life of the project.

Project clearances

  • These authorities evaluate project clearance (using technology and expertise), in a time-bound manner, providing for single-window clearance.
  • It suggested a “fast track” procedure for “linear” projects (roads, railways and transmission lines), power and mining projects and for “projects of national importance.”
  • It also suggested an appellate mechanism against the decisions of NEMA/SEMA or MoEF&CC, in respect of project clearance, prescribing a three-month deadline to dispose of appeals.

National Environment Research Institute

  • It proposed the establishment of a National Environment Research institute “on the lines of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education”. It would bring in the application of high-end technology in environmental governance.

Establishment of Indian Environment Service (IES)

  • An Indian Environment Service should be established to recruit qualified and skilled human resources in the environment sector
  • This would help towards the development of special expertise in the environmental domain.
  • Currently, matters of environmental regulation rest on scientists of the Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as bureaucrats from the Indian Administrative Services.

Status of the Committee Recommendations

  • The Parliamentary standing committee rejected the report on the grounds that it ended up diluting key aspects of environmental legislation designed to protect the environment.
  • The Centre never formally accepted this report and neither constituted a new committee as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
  • However, many of these recommendations are implicitly making their way into the process of environmental regulation.

Way Forward

  • The creation of new All India Services emanates from the fact that AIS officers have a generalist approach whereas contemporary challenges require a more specialized approach.
  • In order to maintain a balance between the two, an Indian Environmental Service Academy can be set up, in order to train officers for enforcing environmental laws.
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