Interview with Dr Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment
Sakshi Kuchroo | March 31, 2016 | New Delhi
Close to the World Cultural Festival organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AoL), purportedly, causing damage to the flood plain of river Yamuna in Delhi, the centre is mulling changes in the environmental laws to make such vandalism unaffordable. The proposed changes in the law would scale up the fines to a minimum of Rs 5 crore as against Rs 1 lakh. Will this act as a deterrent?
Governance Now spoke with Dr Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), to find out if hiking penalty for environmental damage would act as a deterrent against misuse of natural resources. Excerpts from the interview:
Is increasing the penalty for environmental vandalism from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 crore a wise move?
Our current system of compliance is of criminal nature, but we hardly send anyone to jail for violating environmental laws. So, the present scenario does not have adequate deterrence. We need a system of compliance which includes financial penalty of credible deterrence. I think the hike in penalty was long overdue. It is necessary to increase the amount which throws an impact on the violators. But that is just one aspect. We also need to build strong infrastructural reforms that will be required for this hiked fine in becoming effective.
The proposed law has provisions for adjudicating authority comprising two environmental experts and a district judge to assess the damage. Will this help?
I don’t think so. I am fine with the idea of forming an authority that will assess the damage but this individual committee will just lead to multiplicity in the system and not coherence. Rather than creating an individual body, what we need is that such a committee should be integrated with the already existing mechanism. For example, the preferred appellate will probably be in all states, so it should be a part of the state pollution control board as they already have the mechanism which will assess the details of the damage. Also, three people cannot govern each and every aspect of the problem; you need to have a team, a definite mechanism that will deal with every minute detail of the violation. So rather than creating more confusion by this multiplicity, we need to start working coherently.
The proposed law also aims to categorise violations into minor, non-substantial and substantial. Do you think it will minimise the discretion of state boards?
Well, they need to define these three categories. Exactly what sort of violation will be considered minor? Recently, some dead fishes surfaced at the area around Ulsur lake in Bangalaore in the first week of March, imagine the level of contamination. Will this be considered a minor category? Isn’t it a serious issue? They really need to outline what will comprise these categories, otherwise it’s useless.
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