Stringent laws on environment are followed strictly now
“Our government is working strictly on Civil Penalties, CAMPA laws to protect the environment. The government’s focus is also on compliance of rules and laws,” said Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment, Forests and Climate Change in an interview with DK Rath. Excerpts:
Q.Construction and demolition waste is taking its toll. How do you propose to combat it?
Unfortunately, for last 70 years in India, nobody is concerned about construction and demolition waste. I saw the metro world, where they dig tonnes of soil every day, but there is not a trace of pollution visible in those cities because they work in a scientific way. For the first time, we allowed same norms and regulations in India to curb construction and demolition pollution that means all such works will have to be carried out by putting up covers. Someone has to carry loads of debris in covered vehicles and need to water it. Moreover, debris will be recycled. The government will not allow the waste to be dumped anywhere. We will make sure that it reaches at safe zones.
Q.You said the government is going to start an air pollution research institute. Can you give us a brief idea about it?
Pollution is a very vital issue. There is industrial pollution, river pollution, air pollution etc. Environment Ministry is considering creation of an air pollution research institute to study the impact of pollution and guide the government in better handling of the menace. We need to do some research on air pollution as we do in other fields. So, we have thought of creating a new air pollution research institute. It will provide added information to the people and to the government, which will help us in better governance.
Q.According to WHO, 30 most polluted cities in the world are in India. What steps are being taken to curb this?
It is a misconception and a partial report, because it is only talk about PM 2.5 (inhalable coarse particles) pollution. There are also several measures like ozone pollution, benzene pollution, smog pollution, and many American and European countries are suffering from such contamination. It means every city has a pollution problem, but WHO only talks about developing country. It is well aware that Americans are crying because of pollution. Soon we will bring a paper on pollution in India and the world, where we will give details of all kinds of pollution, which impact health.
Q.You talked about clean cities in India, but in places like Bangalore, Gazipur, borders of Delhi, etc., garbage is dumped regularly.
I agree there are problems. About 70 per cent people are not bothered about cleanliness and environment. Delhi does not haul to one of the polluted city in last two years. We have already revamped all the waste management rules including solid waste management rule, e-waste management rule, plastic waste management rule, bio-medical and other hazardous waste management rule. The responsibility of generators has been introduced to segregate waste into three categories – Wet, Dry and Hazardous Waste. The generator will have to pay ‘User Fee’ to the waste collector and a ‘Spot Fine’ for littering and non-segregation, the quantum of which will be decided by the local bodies. The government is keen on integration of rag-pickers from the informal sector to the formal sector. And we will focus more on recycling. There are severe penalties for violators of these rules, by which government can penalise from Rs 10 thousands to Rs 10 crore for environment norms violation. We will collect fine from everyone, whosoever violates the rule including corporations, local bodies.
Q.Two years back, you talked about making India ‘ land degradation neutral’ by 2030. What steps have been taken in this regard?
One third of the forest lands have already been degraded in India. We want to grow forests on degraded land once again. We will grow through CAMPA bill. The bill has already been passed in the Lok Sabha. There will be compensatory forestation fund to the tune of Rs 40, 000-42,000 crore to ensure afforestation of nonforest land equal to the land diverted or degraded forest land twice the area of land diverted.
Q.What are CAMPA laws and what is their importance?
These rules will ensure expeditious utilisation of accumulated unspent amounts available with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), which presently is of the order of Rs. 42,000 crore, and fresh accrual of compensatory levies and interest on accumulated unspent balance, which will be of the order of approximately Rs. 6,000 crore per annum, in an efficient and transparent manner. This money had been lying in the banks for last 13 years unused, which was only 200 crore in 2002, with every year’s addition and interest, it became Rs 42,000 crore. It will be used for making India green.
Q.What are your plans to cut dependence on fossil fuels?
We have planned 40 percent of our energy mix capacity from non-fossil fuel by 2030. That is the highest. Even the United States is not doing this. There is also public-private partnership working on solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy and hydel energy to produce non-fossil fuel. There will be a tremendous increase in amount of non-fossil fuel in India in upcoming years.
Q.What are the reasons for the widespread drought in the country?
Droughts and floods are natural disasters. But there is no doubt that climate change and global warming are also the causes of droughts and other natural disasters. The government is sensitive towards drought and is taking concrete steps to provide permanent solutions to tide over water scarcity in times of poor monsoon. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi sits with states ministers and machineries for more than three hours each to discuss about the sensitivity of drought-affected areas. Earlier, the central government used to send a team, and as per its review, funds were allocated. Now, we are listening direct from the state authorities to tackle the problems, which is good governance.
Q.What is your take on genetically modified crops?
Our government is committed to going ahead with trials for genetically modified or GM crops and a decision on commercialisation will be taken only after proper scientific evaluation. For the sake of food security, to get the poor to live with dignity, we need to evaluate all safe techniques of food production.
Q.What is your view on wholesale changes in existing environmental laws?
We brought CAMPA laws, civil penalties, if needed, we will bring more laws to make environment safe.
Q.How do you propose to improve compliance to environmental laws and standards?
We have already raised standards for all the industrial houses and also for others. I am receiving reports on environmental compliance minute by minute from every state on my mobile. So I think I put control on industries buy using technology.
Q.There are 19 crore livestock in the country, which is about 14 per cent of the world’s livestock and out of this, 15 crore are indigenous livestock. What steps are being taken to protect them?
Concerns about cows, animal husbandries, its production increase, and safety–almost everything is with Agricultural Ministry. Environmental Ministry sees the cruelty factor to animals.
Q.It is being widely perceived that your ministry is pro-industry as you are giving environment clearances very easily.
We have made process transparent. We have decentralised, standardised, and brought technology into the process. We don’t see the faces of the industry; we see the merit of the case, no need to interfere anyone. Average time taken for environmental approvals during UPA government was 600 days, but now it is only 100 days.
Q.Are you happy with this ministry or would you like to swap with any other ministry?
Serving the people was my dream from young age. Now it is time to fulfill this dream in a very rich way. ■