On the anvil

National environment policy

Published: Sunday 15 February 2004

India will soon have a National Environment Policy. The Union minister of state for environment and forests, Ramesh Bais, announced this on January 15. On the same day, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (ccea) asked the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) to quickly resolve some other environmental issues by March 31.

The policy, being formulated for the first time following Prime Minister's Atal Bihari Vajpayee's directions in this regard, "will cover all areas of the environment and apply to the centre as well as the states", said Meena Gupta, additional secretary, moef. "It will be directional in nature," sources in the ministry added.

A draft of the policy has been prepared by The Energy and Resources Institute (teri), a policy research organisation. Although there is no official word from the ministry about why teri was chosen to prepare the draft, Gupta explained that the institute is working closely with the moef on other projects too.

Hardly any consultations have taken place during the preparation of the first draft, which will be made public by the end of January. Some in the ministry believe the process could take longer due to a lack of coordination among officials and scientists, and the fact that several chapters are being redrafted. A series of consultations are likely to follow the release of this document before the final draft is prepared for consideration by the Union cabinet in May.

Among the issues the ccea has directed the moef to resolve are the process for review and approval of environmental impact assessments, review of coastal zone regulations, public-private partnerships for implementing plan schemes like management of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, action plans for increasing the forest cover to 33 per cent of the land area by 2012, and addressing pollution in all major rivers by 2012.

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