The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change recently said that State Governments will no longer be allowed to impose Conservation Directions and Regulations for Infrastructure Projects in Forest Areas other than those which have already been mentioned by the MoEFCC while giving clearance to a project.
The MoEFCC clarified this law after the Odisha Government sought to implement a site-specific wildlife management plan in a mining project. A senior official said that though these laws pre-existed, have been clarified now and reiterated in their letter which was uploaded on their website.
However, the said letter also clarified that “In exceptional situations, giving due justifications, additional conditions may be imposed with the prior approval of the central government.”
“The law states that prior approval of the central government is needed for projects involving diversion of forests. It’s a given that the project has been deliberated upon. Interjections by the state after an approval has been granted creates confusion and hurdles in monitoring of the project. This provision was always there. We have only reiterated that in our letter,” said a senior ministry officer who requested to be anonymous.
Alok Shukla, convener Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, a non-government organisation with the aim of preserving the rights of Tribals displaced in Chattisgarh, said that efforts made to centralise various processes related to mining is extremely worrying. He said that it meant that if a state government noticed any manipulation of loophole in the laws that allow violation, they cannot impose a further restriction on a project to ensure that the forest preservation laws are not violated.
Kanchi Kohli, a Legal Researcher at the Centre for Policy Research and an environmental Activist, has said that “These directions pose a serious challenge to collaborative federalism as forests are part of the concurrent list of the Constitution. While state governments need prior approval of the central government, it is the state government which has the powers to issue final orders giving effect to forest diversions, de-reservation or tree felling. The central government is seeking to constrain the powers of the state governments to pose additional conditions, which may be required it new facts have emerged during the pendency of the proposal or which may essential to ensure in-depth inquiry or legalise necessary conservation measures.”
This report was first published by the Hindustan Times
A few questions still remain after this clarification:
Pre-Existing Schemes and Regulations Implemented by State Governments
If a pre-existing scheme of environmental regulation issued by a state government is not mentioned by the MoEFCC when Clearance is being Granted, is it overridden?
Will the state-governments respective Wildlife Management boards and committees pre-existing decisions not be respected and will these committees have to be disbanded?
Opposition to Clearance by the State-Government
Will State Governments no longer be allowed to oppose the grant of clearance to any corporate by creating newer environmental management laws? If not, what is the legal procedure they can go about to oppose the granting of clearance by the MoEFCC?
Image Credit: DelhiGreens Website https://delhigreens.com/2019/08/12/moefcc-wants-a-new-logo-design-and-win-cash-award/