Science is a disqualifier

Pollution control boards remain hot seats for babus

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Thursday 15 December 2005

IT'S BEEN four months since the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF), on behalf of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) on Hazardous Wastes, sent a strongly worded letter to the chief secretaries of all states and Union territories in India. Referring to the Supreme Court (SC) order dated October 14, 2003, which had directed states to strengthen their respective pollution control board (PCB) both in terms of infrastructure and human power.

The letter noted that most PCBs continue to defy the SC order. Also statutory provisions under the Water Act 1971 and the Air Act 1981, which specify that the chairpersons appointed shall be per-sons having "special knowledge or practical experience in respect to matters relating to environmental protection..." were being ignored. Hence the MoEF in its letter dated July 27, 2005, directed all chief secretaries to inform it within four weeks "regarding the qualifications of the chairperson and member secretary" in their state. Based on this, SCMC will examine if the nominations meet the norms indicated in the M G K Menon committee report and the SC order and take further action.

Rather than initiate efforts to strengthen PCBs, most states have not even bothered to reply to MoEF. Down To Earth (DTE) questioned M Subba Rao, additional director, MoEF, and member secretary, SCMC, who confirmed that "many states have not replied and reminders have already been sent to them, failing which more reminders would be sent". Rao refused to share information on states that have replied, claiming it would be presented to SCMC. He did not provide a time frame.

DTE found that the situation had not changed much in the last three years when it had reported how nontechnical people, chiefly IAS officers, held key positions of chairperson and member secretary (see 'Realities unmasked', Down To Earth, October 31, 2002). At present, hardly three to four chairpersons are scientists with a knowledge of environmental protection. The situation with the post of member secretaries is similar.

D B Boralkar, member secretary of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, says, "PCB's activities are essentially science and technology based. The position of the chairperson and member secretary should be held by persons having experience, knowledge and qualification in this field."

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