Need more qualified people in state green boards: NGT chairman

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New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) National Green Tribunal Chairperson Swatanter Kumar on Friday called for “more qualified people” in the state NGT boards while ruing the failure of environmental regulations due to improper implementation.

“We have state boards, which are headed strangely… one lawyer is the chairman of the board, you want him to deal with complex issues, environmental clearance… You must have proper qualified people as part of these boards to ensure proper implementation because they have to discharge immense responsibilities,” he said in his address at the National Conference on Air and Water Pollution.

The event was organised by the Niti Aayog, EPIC India and University of Chicago and attended by officials of 14 state pollution control boards.

About the regulatory regime, he said that though there are enough laws in country — the air act, the biodiversity act and the environmental protection act to name a few, respect for them is lacking which is a serious matter.

Citing a case the Tribunal had heard recently, he said: “One person in Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) got permission to develop a three room guest house on a hill slope but the gentleman builds a seven storied hotel.

“This is total failure of the regulatory advisory mechanism. And there are four departments involved – Country Planning, State Pollution Control Board, Irrigation Department and the Forest Department.

“While constructing the hotel, the owner didn’t think of factors like water availability and sewage management, which were to be checked by the state agencies,” said Justice Kumar.

“So, that shows law fails because it’s not properly implemented,” he said, and went on to advocate making economic benefits part of environmental schemes for better implementation of law.

“You cannot implement environment law without providing incentive to the industry… you can’t shut them down especially in a developing country like India,” he said.

Citing the example of crop burning in Delhi’s neighbouring states, which bought the particulate matter in the air to a dangerous 1,600 units against the permissible 100 units, the NGT chief said that it is the duty to the government to incentivise, provide machines to remove residue from fields, take it to the power plant and give money to the farmer.

“So that a farmer knows that instead of burning he could get something out of it, maybe even Rs 10,” he added.

Praising the NGT as the only tribunal for environment in the world with such large jurisdiction and for providing affordable environment justice, he said this is a complement to India.

“I don’t think that anywhere in the world you have environmental courts and specialised tribunals of such jurisdiction. You have them in New Zealand and Australia but they are of very limited jurisdiction,” he said.

The NGT chief also called for making access to environmental justice more easier.

“Probably we are the tribunal in the world that gives you (justice) in less than Rs 1,000… In a given case, a child studying in eight standard wrote us about trees being cut and dust being thrown into his school, and we took it as a case,” he said.

He also contended that access to environment should not be expensive because environment hits the poor and middle class of the country the worse.

Justice Kumar also urged people to have respect for nature.

“People used to worship trees, mountains, sun, moon and everything. Today everybody’s concerned in whipping the forests and developing thermal power plant in the most eco-sensitive areas… we need environment consciousness. Nature doesn’t need us, we need nature,” he said.

–IANS

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