After reading this article you will learn about the role of Indian government in environmental management.
The Government is the supreme manager of environment and it is the duty of the government-to manage the security and sovereignty of air, water and land. Today, the magnitude of the pollution problems due to rapid growth of population, industrialization, urbanization and motorization, especially since 1960’s prove to be so serious that they require to be tackled only through public policies.
The reason for this being that the private market system fails to allocate environmental resources efficiently due to the pervasiveness of pollution costs external to private decision makers. Environmental quality is a public good and the economic efficiency in environmental resource allocation necessitates the intervention of the government. Generally, there are 2 approaches available for pollution abatement policy.
1. Discouraging pollution through altering the market incentives
2. Through regulatory intervention, in the absence of market incentives.
The aim of the first approach is to design the pollution abatement methods to eliminate the divergence between private costs and social costs. The second approach of tackling environmental pollution problems is the imposition of mandatory controls and standards on emission sources.
Altering market incentives include methods such as imposing pollution taxes or effluent charges and pollution fines upon the generators of pollution and providing subsidies for promoting waste treatment and recycling materials. The regulatory intervention relates to the way of passing of pollution control regulations, legislations and to establish environmental standards.
Following are some of the important measures adopted by the government of India in protecting the environment:
Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development have been the cornerstones of the policies and procedures governing the industrial and other developmental activities in India.
Ministry of Environment & Forests has taken several policy initiatives and enacted environmental and pollution control legislations to prevent indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources and to promote integration of environmental concerns in developmental projects.
One such initiative is the Notification on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of development projects issued on 27.1.1994 under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 making EIA mandatory for 29 categories of developmental projects. One more item was added to the list in January 2000.
EIA is a planning tool that is now generally accepted as an integral component of sound decision-making. The objective of EIA is to foresee and address potential environmental problems/concerns at an early stage of project planning and design.
EIA/EMP should assist planners and government authorities in the decision making process by identifying the key impacts/issues and formulating mitigation measures. Ministry had issued sectored guidelines some time ago.
A compendium of the procedures and questionnaires entitled Application Form and Questionnaire for Environmental Clearance was published in September, 1999 in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry.
As part of the continued efforts to ensure transparency in the procedures of environmental clearance and to assist the project authorities in improving the quality of EIA documents, this Manual is now being brought out by the Ministry.
The Manual has been designed to cover the whole gamut of issues like regulatory requirements, the EIA methodology including baseline studies, identification of key issues and consideration of alternatives, impact analysis and remedial measures in a systematic way.
It also delineates the process of reviewing the adequacy of EIA and EMP reports and post-project monitoring. To make the Manual comprehensive and self-contained, information pertaining to legislative regime, base line data generation and monitoring, thumb rules for pollution control measures etc. have been annexed to the main text.
It has been our experience that EIA documents are often voluminous but much of the base-line information included in these is not fully utilised in the impact analysis and prediction. Some of the impacts of the proposed development are of little significance to the decision making process.
Other measures that have been adopted by the government in environmental management and currently in operation all over India include:
i. Effluent Charges:
It is one of the fiscal tools which when used correctly will induce the firm to decrease output of effluents. This in turn helps remove the zero-price criteria of the producers associated with the use of the natural resources of the country. The imposition of these effluent charges firmly establishes the public ownership of air and water resources and determines the price that must be paid for their use.
ii. Pollution Fines:
An important strategy of environmental pollution control creates cost burdens on polluters and also serves as an incentive for adopting safety measures in the production activities over the country.
iii. Subsidies for Better Environmental Quality:
The subsidies that can be offered by the government acts as an opportunity cost in terms of foregone revenue and also has the effect of internationalizing the social costs of waste discharges. The polluter treats waste reduction as another marketable good and therefore, more firms try to improve their efficiency in their effort to maximize their ‘subsidies’.
iv. Other Regulatory and Legal Measures:
There is an increasing effort working to improve the legislation laws that protect our environment supported by well drafted regulations and enforcement systems and administrative machinery.
The legislative scope covers a wide range of spheres including land-use, water rights, pollution control and abatement, forest protection, wildlife conservation, rural and urban planning, industrial licensing, development planning, use of toxic chemicals, disposal of solid wastes and effluents to name the most important few.
The government, however, must place more stress on government expenditure on environmental protection that must move up to support the concept of ‘sustainable development’ that the countries around the globe are striving to achieve. Environmental management must also acknowledge the fact that increasing population and poverty are mainly related to the over utilization and depletion of natural resources.
Therefore, people’s awareness and their active participation on environmental issues is a “must”. For instance, the “chipko” movement in our country has played a vital role in safeguarding forests in Himalayas.
Environmental education particularly relating to environmental impact assessment (EIA) as discussed earlier is necessary for better environmental management. Voluntary agencies and NGO’s must also be encouraged to help solve the environmental problems of our country.
The environmentalist movement has been weak in India. This is so despite the pro-nature, pantheism in Indian culture and the Gandhian outlook to life. Though its antecedents are to be traced to it’s counterparts in the West and developed countries elsewhere, like Japan, it came up in the seventies and assumed recognizable proportions during the eighties.
Initially, after independence, the primary attention of the governments and the people was riveted on development through a planned strategy. As the development plans proceeded and development in some concentrated areas, regions and sectors took place, governments and people started looking into environmental problems that arose in the wake of industrial development, urbanization and increase in the population of our country.
Uprooting of agricultural landholders from the villages in which they had settled for generations due to irrigation and hydroelectric projects, water logging and salinisation of agricultural lands due to continuous irrigation and fertilizer use, unsettlement of the tribals on account of deforestation, the growth of slums and extinction of greenery due to over-urbanization, pollution of air and water due to industrial wastes, increase in noise pollution were some of the environmental problems which cropped up all over the country and engaged the attention of the planners and the people.
Thus, the rise of environmentalism in the country has been slow and belated to meet the advances and pace of development in the country. The movement has been localized, sporadic, transient and weak, and basically, treated symptomatically.
Thus, the root of the problems lies in the fact that there has been a lot of complacency in development planning, as the planners never figured out the consequences of their plans would also have negative externalities which would be devastating and wide spread.
The awakening in the United Nations to the urgency of environmental protection and the insertion of a constitutional provision of a direct principle of State Policy regarding the guarding of the forests and wildlife of the country (Article 48 A), more or less coincided.
An independent Department of Environment, Forests and Wildlife exist to deal with the environmental issues of our country. Various enactments have entered into the statute book to safeguard environmental protection and suitable actions are being pursued.
However, the problems of environmental preservation and promotion are longstanding and ever growing. Without the constant prodding and support of the movement in India, these problems will take a long time to be treated and solved.
Development planning by the government must be preceded by foreseeing of the environmental problems ahead of time, not trailing behing it. The government must confer and consult with the environmental groups to avoid a time lag between the occurrence of the problems and their solutions. The environmental groups have to combine and assert their concerted strength and this is where NGO’s come into the picture.
The government should evince sympathy to their causes as they keep the conscience of the people burning bright. This is the core element of development planning for any country. Development and environmentalism are not opposed to each other as some may conclude; they are complementary.
Any development oriented plans must perform its objectives without disturbing the equilibrium of the regional ecosystem. Environmental planning and management on the one hand and development planning on the other, are interlinked as the former gives the solutions to a better surrounding and the latter provides the solutions to a better way of living.
The importance of environmental planning and development of resources need to be over emphasized for a nation like India with so much socioeconomic stress and strains. Knowing that all development activities depend upon natural resources for inputs (source), and for disposal of waste (sink) and that environmental problems are created either when inputs demanded are beyond the regenerative capacity at the source and\or. when wastes overwhelm the recycling and\or absorptive capacity at the sink, the traditional planning process with its underlying assumption that fresh water and clean air being gifts of God would continue to be available in perpetuity and in abundance is no longer tenable. Indeed, it is abundantly clear now that the planning exercise must be attempted within a regime of “Limiting Resources”.
Moreover, the pressure on the sources and sinks is determined by the efficiency of the process, which in turn depends among other things, on the kind of technology applied. Policy initiatives are, therefore, imperative towards efficiency improvements in technology to achieve reduced pressure on the resource base, both on the source and sinks sides, and result in increased production of goods and services.
The first Industrial Revolution led to a worldwide emphasis on adoption of industrialization as the quickest route for rapid economic development accompanied by large-scale import of technologies – obsolete and not-so-obsolete – by developing countries.
Selection of technologies in India, like elsewhere, was based on the criteria of “Lowest Initial Capital Investment”, resulting in a basketful of technologies which are obsolete and which create increasing pressure on the natural resource base.
Seeing the excessive wastage of natural resources, accompanied by a staggering backlog of air, water and land pollution, the Government of India came out with a Technology Policy Statement in 1983, which simply stated that:
“Our future depends on our ability to resist the imposition of technology which is obsolete or unrelated to our specific requirements and of policies which tie us to systems which serve the purposes of others rather than our own, and on our success in dealing with vested interests in our organizations; governmental, economic, social and even intellectual which bind us to outmoded systems and institutions.”
Time and again, it is stressed that the available natural resources are not harnessed to its optimum for the national development in India. Energy is of prime importance for the national growth. Of all the energy sources, hydel energy ranks next to solar energy and wind energy in environmental friendly option.
These are the natural resources that we can utilize efficiently and in our quest for integrated development and growth for our country. Research and development is of primary importance for any development plan and investments must be made after performing an accurate cost-benefit analysis.
In recent years, in all the planning processes, emphasis has been placed on integrated planning, but the concept of integrated area development and the methods of achieving it have not yet been set forth clearly.
The concept of integrated area development refers to three types of integration, i.e., functional, spatial and time which are again interrelated in various complex forms. Integrated area development refers to the appropriate locations of social and economic activities over a physical space for the maximum rather optimum use and exploitation of physical and human resources available in the region for its balanced development.
It provides a most suitable matrix for decentralization of basic and necessary socio economic activities by locating them at viable places. To achieve these objectives, it is essential to divide any development oriented plan into rural planning and urban planning as the requirements and attributes of each region differ from the other.