National Environment Policy 2006

National Environment Policy 2006 is a response to India’s national commitment to a clean environment, mandated in the Constitution in Articles 48 A and 51 A (g), (DPSP) strengthened by judicial interpretation of Article 21.

It is recognized that the maintenance of the Healthy environment is not the responsibility of the state alone. It is the responsibility of every Citizen and thus a spirit of partnership is to be realized through the environment Management of the country. Here is the summary of the National Environment Policy 2006:

Key Environment Challenges

The key environmental challenges that India faces are related to the nexus of environmental degradation with poverty in its many dimensions, and economic growth. Challenges are intrinsically connected with the state of environmental resources, such as land, water, air, and their flora and fauna.

Drivers of Degradation

Proximate drivers of environmental degradation are population growth, inappropriate technology and consumption choices, and poverty, leading to changes in relations between people and ecosystems, and development activities such as intensive agriculture, polluting industry, and unplanned urbanization. Other drivers of degradation are the lack of clarity or enforcement of rights of access and use of environmental resources, policies which provide disincentives for environmental conservation (and which may have origins in the fiscal regime), market failures (which may be linked to shortcomings in the regulatory regimes), and governance constraints.

Impact on Health

Poor environmental quality has adversely affected human health. Environmental factors are estimated as being responsible in some cases for nearly 20 percent of the burden of disease in India, and a number of environment-health factors are closely linked with dimensions of poverty (e.g. malnutrition, lack of access to clean energy and water). Interventions such as reducing indoor air pollution, protecting sources of safe drinking water, protecting soil from contamination, improved sanitation measures, and better public health governance, offer tremendous opportunities in reducing the incidence of a number of critical health problems.

Objectives of the Policy

  1. Conservation of Critical Environmental Resources
  2. Intra-generational Equity: Livelihood Security for the Poor
  3. Inter-generational Equity
  4. Integration of Environmental Concerns in Economic and Social Development:
  5. Efficiency in Environmental Resource Use
  6. Environmental Governance
  7. Enhancement of Resources for Environmental Conservation

Principles of National Environment Policy 2006

The Policy evolved from the recognition that only such development is sustainable, which respects ecological constraints, and the imperatives of justice. The Objectives stated above are to be realized through various strategic interventions by different public authorities at Central, State, and Local Government levels. They would also be the basis of diverse partnerships. The principles followed in the policy are:

  1. Human Beings are at the Centre of Sustainable Development Concerns:
  2. Right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.
  3. In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.
  4. Where there are credible threats of serious or irreversible damage to key environmental resources, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
  5. In various public actions for environmental conservation, economic efficiency would be sought to be realized

“Polluter Pays” principle

Impacts of acts of production and consumption of one party may be visited on third parties who do not have a direct economic nexus with the original act. Such impacts are termed “externalities”. The National Environment Policy promotes the internalization of environmental costs, including through the use of incentives based policy instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest, and without distorting international trade and investment.

Legal Liabilities in the Policy

The environmental redressal mechanism based on doctrines of criminal liability, have not proved sufficiently effective, and need to be supplemented. The policy adopts the civil liability for environmental damage that would deter environmentally harmful actions, and compensate the victims of environmental damage.

The alternatives to Civil Liability may also apply viz. Fault Based liability and Strict Liability.

  • In Fault Based Liability a party is held liable if it breaches a preexisting legal duty, for example, an environmental standard.
  • Strict liability imposes an obligation to compensate the victim for harm resulting from actions or failure to take action, which may not necessarily constitute a breach of any law or duty of care.

The Doctrine of Public Trust

As per this doctrine, the State is not an absolute owner, but a trustee of all natural resources, which are by nature meant for public use and enjoyment, subject to reasonable conditions, necessary to protect the legitimate interest of a large number of people, or for matters of strategic national interest.

Legislative Reforms

A judicious mix of civil and criminal processes and sanctions will be employed in the legal regime for enforcement, through a review of the existing legislation. The policy calls for identification of the emerging areas for new legislation, due to better scientific understanding, economic and social development, and development of multilateral environmental regimes, in line with the National Environment Policy. It also calls for review the body of existing legislation in order to develop synergies among relevant statutes and regulations.

Environment Impact Assessment

The policy focuses on encouraging the regulatory authorities, Central and State, to institutionalize regional and cumulative environmental impact assessments (R/CEIAs) to ensure that environmental concerns are identified and addressed at the planning stage itself.

CRZ

The policy aims to revisit the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notifications to make the approach to coastal environmental regulation more holistic, and thereby ensure protection to coastal ecological systems, coastal waters, and the vulnerability of some coastal areas to extreme natural events and potential sea level rise. In pursuance with the Policy CRZ Notification 2011 was released recently.

The Problem of LMOs

LMO refers to the Living Modified Organisms. Living modified organisms (known as LMOs) result from modern biotechnology is broadly equivalent to genetically modified organisms.

The difference between an LMO and a GMO is that a Living Modified Organism is capable of growing, and typically refers to agricultural crops. Genetically Modified Organisms include both LMOs and organisms which are not capable of growing, i.e. are dead.

The National Environment Policy says that Genetically Modified Organisms require evaluation of their potential benefits and risks as part of relevant regulatory processes. The subset of LMOs, may, however, owing to their potential for replication, involve environmental concerns in addition. LMOs may pose significant risks to ecological resources, and perhaps, human and animal health. In order to ensure that development of biotechnology does not lead to unforeseen adverse impacts, the policy aims to review the regulatory processes for LMOs so that all relevant scientific knowledge is taken into account, and ecological, health, and economic concerns are adequately addressed.

ESZs

The Environmentally Sensitive Zones are the areas with identified environmental resources having “Incomparable Values” which require special attention for their conservation.

In order to conserve and enhance these resources, without impeding legitimate socio-economic development of these areas, the National Environment policy aims to identify and give legal status to Environmentally Sensitive Zones in the country having environmental entities with “Incomparable values” requiring special conservation efforts. The policy also envisages formulating area development plans for these zones on a scientific basis, with adequate participation by the local communities.

Desert Habitats

The arid and semi-arid region of India covers 127.3 mha (38.8%) of India’s geographical area and spreads over 10 states.

The Indian desert fauna is extremely rich in species diversity of mammals and winter migratory birds. However the pressures of a rapidly increasing population on the natural resource base necessitate adoption of innovative and integrated measures for conservation of desert ecosystems. The policy aims at measures such as Intensive water and moisture conservation through practices based on traditional and science based knowledge, and relying on traditional infrastructure.

Panchayats & Women Participation

The policy aims at working towards giving the legal recognition of the traditional entitlements of forest dependent communities taking into consideration the provisions of the (PESA). This would remedy a serious historical injustice, secure their livelihoods, reduce possibilities of conflict with the Forest Departments, and provide long-termincentives to these communities to conserve the forests.

Wild life

The policy aims to expand the Protected Area (PA) network of the country, including Conservation and Community Reserves, to give fair representation to all bio-geographic zones of the country. In doing so, develop norms for delineation of PAs in terms of the Objectives and Principles of the National Environment Policy, in particular, participation of local communities, concerned public agencies, and other stakeholders, who have a direct and tangible stake in protection and conservation of wildlife, to harmonize ecological and physical features with needs of socio-economic development.

Wetlands

The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as, ‘areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters’, thereby giving a wide scope to the term. Wetlands are under threat from drainage and conversion for agriculture and human settlements, besides pollution. The policy aims at setting up a legally enforceable regulatory mechanism for identified valuable wetlands, to prevent their degradation and enhance their conservation. Develop a national inventory of such wetlands.

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