MoEFCC plans to replace Air, Water and Environmental Acts with a Single Law

MoEFCC has revealed plans to replace Air, Water and Environmental Acts with a Single Law. According to Policy researchers, they have been working on this law since 2014 but operations were behind closed-doors.

An official who asked not to be named said that the older laws have provisions to shut down the industries of violators, but no provision to provide compensation

The purpose is to make them (violators) fall in line rather than take extreme steps such as shutting down industries or imprisonment.

Unnamed Official of MoEFCC, Hindustan Times

At this point of time, to prevent climate change, extreme measures have to be taken. Another form of punishment which involves regulations on illegal industries but no removal will be futile, for industries over time destroy the environment around them completely, with no regard to whether regulations are imposed or not.

They have said that they will not be amending the laws, but only combing them. However, after how ‘minor amendments’ turned out to be huge changes in the way clearances were granted in the Draft EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2020), it is difficult to believe that there would be no amendments to the laws. Apart from lack of trust in environmentalists, the previous statement, that violating industries will not be shut down, contradicts the ‘no amendments’ statement.

Top environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta has opposed this plan, and has said that Water and Air have always been treated separately because them being such complex and large topics, need to have specialised laws for each.

Kanchi Kohli, a lawful researcher at the Centre for Policy Research has revealed that the Ministry had been working on this law since 2014 but most of it was behind closed-doors with no Public Interaction even though it would practically overhaul the foundations of Environmental Law in India. She also said that the law discards a strict and cautionary approach to environmental violations and normalises environmental damage.

Kanchi Kohli has said that the new law exempts almost all forms of violations from punishment or fine

Image Credits: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (GODL-India), GODL-India https://data.gov.in/sites/default/files/Gazette_Notification_OGDL.pdf, via Wikimedia Commons

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