IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
THE gazette notification empowering
local communities with the right to
know any information regarding hazardous industries in India, is likely to be
issued soon by the ministry of environment and forests (MEF). Ministry
sources state that these proposed rules
have received ministerial clearance, and
would become operative from the date
of their notification. The rules, under
the Environment (Protection) Act,
1986, compliments the Manufacture,
Storage and Import of Hazardous
Chemicals Rules (MSIHC Rules), 1989.
A four-tier crisis group at the local,
district, state and Central levels is envisaged comprising village heads, local
NGOs and social workers, newspaper
editors, doctors, and local administrators who would be empowered to enter,
inspect and collect industrial samples
from their neighbourhood units.
According to the draft notification, "the
public can request the local level crisis
groups for any information regarding
hazards in their locality", and "the
groups shall respond to all public
enquiries on the subject".
As per the draft notification, the
government will constitute a central crisis group and set up an alert system
within 30 days of notification which will
comprise state, district and local level
This last group shall review on-site
emergency plans prepared by the occupants of all Major Accident Hazard
(MAH) installations. In India, about 16
states have this facility now.
The response to this significant
development, however, was mixed.
Vinod Raina of Eklavya (a Bhopal-based
NGO pushing for such a move since the
Bhopal gas tragedy), however, was cautious in his reaction. "We will have to
see whether the local level groups would
actually have access to relevant information. This will be successful only if it is
mandatory for the industry to open
their documents for public inspection,"
Rajeev Dhawan, noted environmental advocate, said in criticism, "The local
level groups will remain only in an advisory capacity with no responsibility.
Instead of creating another bureaucratic
white elephant, something in the nature
of a Right to Know Bill, or a scheme for
effective enforcement might have beer a
According to ministry sources, however, these rules would ensure that MY
clarification sought by the citizen(s),
would be honoured. Section 10 and 11
of the Environment (Protection) Act,
1986, makes this mandatory. But critics
fear that the rules may be misused by
"mischievous elements". "On the other
hand, these rules may also lead to an
increase in public interest litigations
against industry," they speculate.
Surinder Kumar, member, expert
committee on environment of the
Federation of Indian Chambers of
Commerce and Industry, and advisor to
Sriram Industrial Enterprises Limited,
says that the rules would sensitise communities' attitude towards hazardous
"Mock drills (for eventualities like
chemical or gas leaks), carried out under
the MSIHC Rules were not very successful
as there was a definite communication
gap between the district administration,
industry and the local communities.
The proposed rules would ensure proper
cooperation from communities," he said.
K P Nyati, head, environment management division, Confederation of
Indian Industries, opine that instead of
issue-based solutions, the government
should take up an integrated approach.
"Encouraging industry to get an ISO 14001 or the BS 7750 ensures that the
community's right to know is in-built in
the system. Industry is thus motivated
to adopt higher standards of production. Also, a system wherein communication between industry and the community is encouraged, and the public
can review commitments made by
industry, it would help in maintaining a
balance," he added.
While response to the proposed
rules ranges from scepticism to optimism, there are chances that erring
industries could be forced to adopt
cleaner and better standards.