Letting them off easy
- Critical analysis of a draft notification seeking to amend the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of 2006.
Importance of EIA
- The EIA process has its origins in the 1992 Rio Earth Summit where over 170 countries committed to balancing environmental concerns and economic needs.
- The EIA was a tool to do this. In India, it has been in place since 1994 and is also called the environment clearance process.
- It is the law that mandates that detailed studies be carried out before implementing projects that carry social risks and could damage the environment.
- The studies are discussed at public hearings before being evaluated by a set of identified experts who then recommend a decision to the Ministry or State government on the project.
What the amendment seeks?
- It seeks to provide an Environment Supplement Plan (ESP) for projects that have already initiated construction activity and expansion before going through an EIA process.
- It ends up providing illegally operating project developers an ESP as a license to violate.
- The ESP will draw up an assessment and cost of damages which the project developer is expected to pay up.
- This sounds less like an environmental fine — an important component among a slew of mechanisms to deter projects from violating environmental norms — and more like a crude form of ‘pay and use’ service.
- It is a well known fact that those project who violates environmental norms never pay up.
- Take the case of the fine of Rs.200 crore on the Adani SEZ in Gujarat, or Rs.5 crore for the Art of Living event on the Yamuna floodplains.
- Even if one were to be more optimistic about these collections, the government’s ability to use these resources to restore the environment, or provide justice to scores of affected people, is severely lacking.
- By killing the EIA process, it is the government that will lose its claim to sustainable development.
Trekkers must take back trash from forests
- Garbage bins to be removed from 10 prominent wildlife parks to ensure cleanliness and to reduce man-animal conflict
- As part of a Swachh Bharat Mission drive, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to do away with garbage bins in 10 prominent wildlife parks and make visitors take their litter home.
- This is done because people dropped litter around garbage bins, inviting animals and thus aggravating the man-animal conflict.
- By this move, the government is compelling the visitors to arrange for jute bags to collect their trash.
NASA Curiosity rover discovers unexpected mineral on Mars
- NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered an unexpected mineral in a rock sample on Mars, a finding that suggests the red planet hosted explosive volcanoes during its evolution.
- Analysing data from an X-ray diffraction instrument on the rover that identifies minerals, scientists detected significant amounts of a silica mineral called tridymite.
- Tridymite is generally associated with silicic volcanism, which is known on Earth but was not thought to be important or even present on Mars.
- The discovery of tridymite might induce scientists to rethink the volcanic history of Mars, suggesting that the planet once had explosive volcanoes that led to the presence of the mineral.
- On Earth, tridymite is formed at high temperatures in an explosive process called silicic volcanism. Mount St. Helens, the active volcano in Washington State, and the Satsuma-Iwojima volcano in Japan are examples of such volcanoes.
- The combination of high silica content and extremely high temperatures in the volcanoes creates tridymite.
Centre’s draft forest policy moots green cess
- National Forest Policy, 2016.
Key proposals in the policy:-
It says governments must switch focus:-
- From Forests to landscapes
- From canopy cover to healthy ecosystems
- From substituting wood to promoting sustainable wood use
- From participatory approaches to empowerment
- From joint forest management to community forest management and
- From qualitative policy statements to a results-based policy framework.:-
It proposes a national implementation framework to be in place within six months of the notification, and exhorts States to draft their state forest policies and prepare an implementation framework.
- Environmental cess, green tax, carbon tax etc. may be levied on certain products and services for facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour, garnering citizen’s contribution and supplementing financial resources
Promotion of sustainable use of wood
- Wood has a significantly lower carbon footprint than many of the substitutes that consume fossil fuels in their production.
- Use of wood also has the potential to create new green jobs by giving a boost to indigenous manufacturing using locally grown raw material.
- Thus promotion of wood use, obtained from sustainably-managed forests and trees, would play a positive role in mitigating climate change and ensuring sustainable living.
- Governments and stakeholders must shift from regulating to promoting cultivation, harvesting, transportation and marketing of wood.
- This even as the forest policy also emphasises that the government “must double tree cover, outside forests, within a decade.”
- Promoting the use of wood outside forests could incentivise forest dwellers to not gather firewood from forests.
Boost to native species
- India has set an ambitious target of bringing a third of its geographical area under forest-and-tree cover within a decade, up from the current one-fourth.
- The policy acknowledges it but recommends that this be done by replenishing these lands with native species rather than “introducing exotic species.
Environment Ministry withdraws draft forest policy
- The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has repudiated a ‘Draft National Forest Policy’ that it uploaded on its website earlier this month calling it an “inadvertent” error.
- The Environment Ministry had tasked the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management, an affiliated organisation, with reviewing and revising the existing forest policy.
- This is the first time that the policy was being re-looked since 1988 as it wanted to update the several changes in forest laws and provide a forward-looking policy that talked about increasing India’s forest cover and tackling the effects of climate change.
- The Ministry said that it has not issued any draft Notification on National Forest Policy.
- What has been uploaded on the website was a study done by Indian Institute of Forest Management. Bhopal.
- The study has not been evaluated by the Ministry. The Ministry has not taken any decision on Draft Forest Policy.
- The study report prepared by IIFM, Bhopal was inadvertently uploaded as Draft Forest Policy on the website.