there's been a last ditch attempt to protect local management of ecologically sensitive areas from the government's
axe. Environment groups in Maharashtra have approached the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) asking
it to not to disband local authorities and monitoring committees that are at present legally entrusted with the planning and management of these
The immediate threat to esas comes from moef's draft National Environment Tribunal Bill, due to be taken up at the upcoming parliament session. The bill seeks to dissolve authorities set up under Section 3(3) of the Environment Protection Act, which includes all esa authorities and also the committee set up for evaluating their proposals.
moef has proposed to set up a national level and four regional-level tribunals to implement the recommendations of the 186th Report of the Law Commission. The report discusses setting up of the tribunals and states that the National Environment Appellate Authority and National Environment Tribunal be dissolved. moef has gone even a step further by proposing to dissolve 16 such authorities.
The bill talks of handing over powers of the existing authorities/committees to State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authorities, the agency responsible to grant or reject environment clearances under Environment Impact Notification, 2006. This move will severely impact localised management and monitoring of esas, say environmentalists . esas are notified by moef as per the powers granted to it under the section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and section 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986. The esas that have approached moef are Matheran, Dahanu and Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani. For the past few years, moef has been under pressure to open up esas for 'development' purposes (see 'Black attack', Down To Earth, December 15, 2004).
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