Two years of NDA government have meant a mixed bag for environmental governance in India, according to a performance review by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). In an analysis of decisions and measures taken by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), CSE has concluded that while there was commendable progress on pollution control and waste management, forest governance took on a more industry-centric approach and the Paris Agreement was a missed opportunity.
Some of the key trends that emerged in the review are as follows:
- There was no significant departure in terms of environmental clearances granted for key sectors in NDA from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. For forest clearances, the average rate of forestland diversion has, in fact, reduced.
- The NDA government took measures to make green clearances faster, facilitating matters for the project proponent. But there were no improvements in enforcement of regulatory requirements to safeguard the environment or interests of local communities.
- The government adopted several commendable measures to control pollution and improve monitoring. Technology-based mechanisms and self-regulation were viewed as main tools for enforcing regulatory provisions.
- The government took some important steps to deal with urban air pollution through a mix of policy tools. But it needs a comprehensive action plan to realise their potential.
- The move to expand LPG connection among rural poor was significant and timely to cut down household air pollution and protect health, particularly of women.
- Waste management emerged as a priority issue, which is reflected in notification of six waste management Rules. At the same time, the success of the flagship Swachh Bharat Mission largely revolved around building toilets, which is not sufficient to make India clean.
- The government’s “Namami Gange” programme for cleaning and rejuvenating Ganga saw little action on ground despite huge money outlay and plans.
- Forest governance is witnessing a gradual shift from a people-centric approach towards a more industry-centric and technocratic approach.
- The government’s emphasis on climate change inspires mixed hopes about the issue. While the Paris deal remains a lost opportunity, negotiations in amending the Montreal Protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) remain a test for the government, the success of which lies in bypassing industry interests keen on selling hydrofluoroolefin (HFO), a patented synthetic chemical.
Report card: Environmental governance under two years of NDA government
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