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World Environment Day 2017: A look at major govt initiatives for cleaner earth

Here’s an overview of major government initiatives collated from various government and official sources.

Over the years, India has taken several measures to control pollution, maintain ecological balance despite rapid industrialisation, increase the forest area in the country and keep rivers clean.

Here’s an overview of major government initiatives collated from various government and official sources.

Air Pollution

Notification of National Ambient Air Quality Standards 2009, envisaging 12 pollutants

Implementation of Bharat Stage IV norms in the 63 selected cities and Bharat Stage III norms in rest of the country

National Air Quality index was launched by the Prime Minister in April, 2015 starting with 10 cities
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Setting up of monitoring network for assessment of ambient air quality

Introduction of cleaner/alternate fuel like CNG, LPG etc. and promotion of public transport network including Metro

Creation of infrastructure for industrial pollution control incorporating cleaner production processes, setting up of common pollution control facilities

Clean India Mission (Swatch Bharat Abhiyan) has been launched


Compensatory Afforestation Bill, 2016

The enactment of the Compensatory Afforestation Act, 2016 has is aimed at ending ad-hocism and help the Centre and State governments utilise funds in a planned manner.

It will facilitate make available more than Rs 6,000 crore per annum to the states and union territories (UTs) for conservation, protection, improvement and expansion of forest and wildlife resources of the country.

According to the government, availability of these amounts will not only help the states and UTs, and local communities, to ensure better management of their forest resources but will also result in creation of more than 15 crore man-days of direct employment.

A major part of these amounts will be used to restock and improve quality of degraded forests, which constitutes more than 40 percent of the total forest cover of the country.

The Act provides for establishment of a permanent institutional framework at the Central at each State and Union territory to ensure utilization of these funds in an expeditious and transparent manner.

It provides for transfer of 90 percent of the accumulated amounts, which presently is of the order of Rs 40,000 crore (excluding about Rs 2,000 crore of interest already accrued on amounts presently being kept as fixed deposits) to the States for creation and maintenance of compensatory afforestation and execution of other activities for conservation, protection, improvement and expansion of forest and wildlife resources of the country.

All fresh amounts to be realised by the States in lieu of forest land to be diverted for non-forest purpose will be deposited directly into the funds to be created under public account of the respective State.

The remaining 10 percent, retained at the national level, will be used for monitoring and evaluation of activities to be undertaken by the states, UTs and the Centre from these funds and to provide, research and technical support to the states so as to ensure that these amounts are used in the technically best possible manner.

Central Government while according prior approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest land for non-forest purpose stipulates conditions to the effect that the State Government shall realize funds from the user agency for compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment plan, wildlife management plan etc. to mitigate impact of diversion of forest land.

In most of the States, funds received from the user-agencies were deposited in consolidated fund as revenue receipts which were made available to the Forest Department through budgetary provisions.

The Central Government in exercise of powers conferred under Section 3 (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 constituted Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

However, the CAMPA could not be operationalized, until the Bill’s passage in Parliament in 2016.

River Conservation

The Water Resources Information System (WRIS) database developed by Central Water Commission along with Indian Space Research Organisation includes 15,615 numbers of identified rivers/streams in the country.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in association with the State Pollution Control Boards is monitoring the water quality of rivers in the country on a regular basis.

According to a report published by CPCB in February, 2015, 302 polluted river stretches have been identified on 275 rivers based on Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) level in rivers, a key indicator of organic pollution.

Various rivers have been identified under the programmes of National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority) for implementation of projects on cost sharing basis between Central and State Governments.

The NGRBA programme along with work of Ganga and its tributaries has been transferred to Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation from August 2014.

Currently, NRCP (excluding Ganga and its tributaries) has covered polluted stretches of 31 rivers in 75 towns spread over 14 States involving a sanctioned cost of Rs 4,517.82 crore.

As of November 2016, an amount of Rs 2,056.58 crore has been released to various State Governments for implementation of various pollution abatement schemes and a treatment capacity of 2373 million litres per day (mld) has been created under NRCP (excluding Ganga and its tributaries).

The National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD) in the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is implementing the centrally sponsored schemes of (NRCP) and National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco¬systems (NPCA) for conservation of rivers, lakes and wetlands in the country.

Forest Conservation

The National Afforestation Programme (NAP) is the flagship scheme under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

According to the India State of Forest Report-2013, the total forest cover in the country is 697,898 square kilometers, which is 21.23 percent of the total geographical area of the country. There is a net increase of 5871 square kilometers in the forest cover of the country as compared with India State of Forest Report-2011. It is also a fact that the density of population has increased in the State of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand.

In order to increase the forest and tree cover and improve the quality of existing forest, afforestation in the country is taken up under various centrally sponsored schemes such as NAP, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP), National Bamboo Mission (NBM) and under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) among others.

The National Afforestation Programme (NAP) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is a 100 percent centrally sponsored scheme for afforestation and tree plantation and eco-restoration of degraded forests and adjoining areas in the country.

The Scheme is being implemented through a decentralized mechanism of State Forest Development Agency (SFDA), Forest Development Agency (FDA) and Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) at village levels.

National Green Tribunal

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.

It has been set up for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues. The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but is guided by principles of natural justice.

The Tribunal's dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters is aimed at providing speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.

The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.

Solar And Renewable Energy

The government has launched the LED project, where the government is replacing the lighting load of the country with LEDs, will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by the tune of 80 million tonnes per annum and the economically prudent project will help the consumer save around Rs 40,000 crore in electricity bills annually.

India is trying to move from a highly thermal power generation dependent economy towards renewable energy, the Minister said. The solar power programme has been scaled up from a 20 GW target to 100 GW by 2022 and put together all the renewable energy sources, including the large hydro projects, India will have 225 GW of renewable and clean energy sources by 2022.

The government is looking to process every litre of water that comes out of the mines in the country so that clean drinking water may be provided to all the people living in the area as well as be used to rejuvenate rivers and underground water table.

For thermal power plants, the government has made it mandatory for any waste water processing unit in the 50 km radius of the plant to compulsorily use the waste water discharged from the plant and the recycled water would have to be compulsorily used by the thermal power plant so that the clean water is available to serve the people living around the plant.

Conversion of India's vehicles to electrical vehicles has a potential to save fossil fuels worth about USD 100 billion annually, which in turn would save the country precious foreign exchange, prevent the dependence on imported petroleum products and reduce the pollution in cities by 80-90 percent.

Sources: PIB, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Parliament Questions, news reports
First Published on Jun 5, 2017 02:22 pm
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