Conservation and protection of the environment is every citizen’s duty, environment being an inseparable part of society, culture and heritage. According to the Indian Constitution, it is the duty of the State and the people to ‘safeguard and improve the environment and to protect the forests and wildlife of the country’.
Following lots of sponsored discussions, accusations of politician-industry nexus and a series of doubtful enactments over the years, now a four-member committee was constituted on August 29, 2014 under former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian to review the laws pertaining to protection of environment and forests and also to come up with suggestions and changes that could make these laws more effective.
One of the main reasons for setting up a separate committee by the Government was to ensure that while attracting industrial investments and rapid urbanisation, there should not be any kind of obstructions in environmental regulations. All kinds of industrial development have to follow some regulatory norms so that the protection of environment is maintained. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has given 2 months time to the committee to submit its report, which will include the review of five major green laws of our country.
On September 14, 2014, the Ministry of Environment and Forests also decided to revise its green laws based on public’s views and comments. It has been seen lately that there has been no strict parameters in environmental laws and policies. In most cases, it is seen that the State pollution control boards issue no-objection certificates or continue to renew NOC to industries and factories not conforming to norms. More than 80% industries in various cities of the country have not been complying with the Acts. There are many loopholes in the Acts.
Environmental Laws in India
There are five main green laws in the country. These are:
- Environment (Protection) Act 1986
- Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972
- Forest (Conservation) Act 1980
- Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974
- Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981
National Green Tribunal (NGT)
The National Green Tribunal was formed on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010. The NGT’s role is to look into cases related to environmental disputes, environmental protection and conservation of forests and natural resources, implementation of environmental legal rights and giving compensation and relief for damages to persons and property.
Green belt development regulations in India
The green belt areas refer to those areas where there are planned open spaces, where no forms of development activities take place like as building of houses, factories, dams etc. These spaces are used only for growing trees and plants. All other spaces adjoining the green belt areas must conform to certain regulations and policies for any development activities.
In India, we do not have any exclusive green belt policy or green belt regulation, as available in other countries. However, on the basis of other environmental policies and Acts, we do have certain areas of land as green belts where no industrial and residential projects is encouraged. The Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) has taken up different initiatives and has always promoted integration of environmental issues in developmental projects.
We do have the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of developmental projects, issued in 1994 and then revised in 2006. The EIA has come up with a guided manual where building, construction, townships, industries and area development projects must conform to certain rules and regulations that do not hamper the ecological balance of the region.
Following are the key points of the manual which need to be followed by all industries before establishing their units in certain areas:
- No forest land shall be converted.
- No agricultural land shall be converted into industrial area.
- Any industry established nearer to a green belt should be concealed from general sight.
- Land taken for development projects should provide space for appropriate waste water treatment.
- Treated waste water shall be used to raise green belt.
- The green belt between two adjoining large industries shall be one km.
- Space should be made available for storage of solid wastes so that these could be reused if required.
- Lay-out of a project must conform to the landscape of the area
- Planting of trees alongside of roads is mandatory.
Importance of green belt development in India
Green belt concept is very popular abroad. Though the objective of green belt varies from region to region, the common objective is to protect the natural environment. This in turn means pollution control, improving air quality of the region etc. The green belt development is necessary to overall improve the environmental condition of a particular region and maintain the ecological health. No doubt, agricultural, urban and industrial activities and expansions are leading to air and noise pollution and causing severe health hazards, and at the same time imposing additional burden on natural resources.
In India, therefore, there is lot of talk about an urgent need for the creation of green belt zones.