How The Minstry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Copied From The US Law in Order to Provide an Escape Route for Violators

ANALYSIS BY EIA RESOURCE AND RESPONSE CENTRE AND LEGAL INITIATIVE FOR FOREST AND ENVIRONMENT

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed the Supplemental Environmental Policy (SEP), 2015 Update in order to make certain changes to the environmental regime in the US and to bring “defendants” back to compliance by entering into a settlement with the US Government. The EPA has described the same as “not required by law”, but as something which the defendant agrees to undertake as part of a settlement. Therefore, essentially, the SEP is a settlement that is an escape route for violators of environmental laws to come back to compliance. The end result is that there will be irreversible environmental damage as violators will be allowed to go scot free by merely implementing an SEP.

EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC India) did a comparative analysis of the US law and the new draft Notification and the table below is self explanatory. It reveals how the MOEF&CC in order to circumvent the Judgment of the National Green Tribunal, copied the provisions of the US law and made only cosmetic changes and if notified, will allow violators to get environmental clearance.

The SEPs as prescribed by the EPA are to be structured so as to help to further the EPA’s mission and involve activities such as children’s health, ensuring public health, promoting pollution prevention, encouraging the development of innovative technologies that protect human health and the environment and addressing climate change.

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change passed a similar draft notification on 10th May, 2016, which seeks to bring into force the concept of an Environmental Supplemental Plan (ESP) which seeks to bring violators of the EIA Notification, 2006, back to compliance. The concept is that in the event that a project proponent circumvents the EIA Notification, 2006 and goes ahead with construction activities in violation of the Notification of 2006, he can be brought back to compliance by taking up an ESP, the definition of which is very vague and will not undo the irreversible environmental damage caused by the project proponent. The essence of the ESP is the same as that of an SEP under US law. Thus, an ESP is essentially a settlement that allows the violator to get away with undertaking construction activities in violation of the EIA Notification, 2006 without having to face any severe consequences.

On a bare perusal of the notifications issued by the Governments of the United States and India, the striking similarities are hard to miss. A large chunk of the Indian Notification has been copied verbatim from the one issued by the United States. Both the Supplemental Plans mention clearly that the intention is not to amend the main Act, but is merely to bring the violator back to compliance by prescribing a set of conditions with which the project proponent would have to comply. The extent of similarity between the two laws has been displayed in the table below: Click here for details