A consultation meeting facilitated by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on Saturday, ahead of the visit of the Union governments high-level committee to review environmental laws, has done little to allay the fears that eco norms are likely to be diluted. According to some of the participants, the review was a clear attempt at softening the provisions and making things easier for the industries.
Several presentations were made, including one by the former Central Pollution Control Board Member-Secretary, B. Sengupta. But, no one was sure of the capacity in which he participated, and whether his presentation was made on behalf of the committee, activists who attended the meeting said. Shockingly, some of the presentations argued for doing away with public consultations for infrastructure projects. There was an idea to reduce the number of industries that needed an environment impact assessment. Furthermore, there were recommendations for doing away with certain procedural parts in the laws on account of lack of manpower.
The aim seems to be the creation of a single-window system to fast-track environment clearance. Some even suggested that once consent is given, there should be no review. This is unfortunate, said Shweta Narayan, co-ordinator, Community Environment Monitoring. The consultation saw the participation of persons with varied background, including Justice P. Jothimani of the National Green Tribunal, who suggested that while a review of laws was necessary to meet the changing times, the exercise should strengthen the framework. Mr. Jothimani also wanted the State pollution control boards strengthened. There should also be consistency in the categorisation of industries across the country, he argued, since each State seemed to be having its own method. Activists who attended the meeting criticised the Centre for reviewing such important laws in haste. The committee had been given just two months to complete the review.