CAG slams environment ministry

Pendency of utilisation certificates amounting to a staggering Rs 596.79 crore outstanding till March this year

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Neha Sethi | November 26, 2010



The comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India has pulled up the environment ministry for failing to implement its projects of afforestation, biodiversity, pollution control, environmental education, besides its lack of monitoring mechanism.

The thrust of the report, tabled in the parliament on Friday, was to highlight issues relating to the adequacy and effectiveness of programmes, schemes and interventions made by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to tackle environmental issues.

“This is the first time that CAG has brought out a separate audit report on MoEF, providing a holistic picture of the results of audit of the ministry which incurred an expenditure of Rs 1711.29 crore during 2008-09,” Rekha Gupta, the deputy CAG said.

The CAG came down heavily on  ministry's failure to increase the country's green cover and its inability to monitor the targets given to NGOs for the afforestation programme. 

“More than 93 percent of the projects, intended for enhancing the number of trees, did not achieve their targeted objectives. Voluntary agencies or NGOs have been able to complete only 3.57 percent of the projects sanctioned to them under a scheme for increasing tree cover,” the report said.

Around Rs 47.03 crore had been released by the national afforestation and eco-development board (NAEB) to NGOs and state forest departments (SFD) for implementing 647 afforestation projects during 2003-08.

Even SFDs could complete only 23 percent of the projects sanctioned to them. “The possibility of misutilisation of funds cannot be ruled out,” the deputy CAG said.

The national biodiversity authority (NBA), established for regulation, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources,  could not notify important regulations governing access to biodiversity, transfer of results of research and intellectual property rights etc., even six years after its formation.

The CAG said that the NBA had prepared a list of endangered species for only seven out of the 28 states.

No information on grant of intellectual property rights (IPR) outside India were available with the NBA, it pointed out. “This came to light only when the turmeric and basmati issues came to light. The NBA was also supposed to set up a monitoring cell to monitor IPRs outside India in 2006 but it didn’t do so,” Raj G Viswanathan, principal director of audit said.

The CAG also said that the objectives in controlling pollution had not been achieved. “After spending Rs 135 crore to control pollution caused by leather tanneries in West Bengal, the effluents were still going into the soil,” Viswanathan added.

The ministry also received flak on the poor implementation of ecocity programme initiated by the central pollution control board (CPCB) in six cities. Around Rs 1.88 crore was lying unspent with state pollution control boards for over seven years.

On environmental education, the CAG said the National Museum of Natural History failed to live up to achieve former prime minister Indira Gandhi's dream to promote environmental education all over the country and had not updated exhibits in the last 20 years.

There was a huge pendency of the utilisation certificates (totalling 7,196), amounting to a staggering Rs 596.79 crore outstanding till March this year indicating lack of monitoring and follow-up system in the ministry.

The report contains 37 specific recommendations from the CAG. Viswanathan said that main concerns were lack of monitoring by the ministry, the lack of manpower and delay in framing regulations.

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