The government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that a ‘super’ environment regulator may not be required if an equally effective regulatory system, adhering to the court's guiding principles in this regard, and the forest policy, 1988, is put in place.
However, an authority could be set up at the Centre to monitor and facilitate implementation of the 1988 forest policy, the government submitted. The authority, it said, could be headed by the director-general of forests and special secretary at the ministry of environment.
The apex court had, in September, pulled up the ministry of environment & forests (MoEF) for not setting up a regulator for evaluating projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and imposition of penalties on violators.
Earlier, while permitting Lafarge of France to resume limestone mining in Meghalaya to feed its $255-million cement plant in Bangladesh, an apex court bench, headed by former Chief Justice SH Kapadia on July 6, 2011, had issued a series of guidelines for environmental clearance of projects in forest areas. It had asked the Centre to appoint a national regulator under Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, "for appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters".
The government submitted that regulation in the “field of governance, namely environment, need not necessarily be done through one super regulator. It can be equally effective and efficient to have a regulatory scheme in place so long as it is compliant with the principles laid down by the top court and the guiding principles of the National Forest Policy, 1988.”
Stating that it is in consultation with the ministries/departments concerned and the state governments, the MoEF, in its affidavit filed on Wednesday, assured the apex court that it is making serious efforts to streamline and strengthen the regulatory mechanism.
“Keeping in view the diverse and inter-connected nature of issues involved in grant of environment clearance to various categories of projects, it may not be feasible for a single authority with limited number of experts to appraise proposals seeking environment clearance to projects of various categories. The authority, if constituted, needs to replicate