1. Before implementing the proposed River Interlinking Project, a sound scientific and technical assessment needs to be undertaken to make it techno-economically feasible. Comment.
Government of India is very keen on taking up of River interlinking projects which refers to linking North Indian Rivers with south Indian Rivers to tackle droughts, floods, improve transportation facilities and economic opportunities along the projects.
However, there needs to be a proper assessment before under taking the projects:
Scientific: whether the project is scientifically beneficial as the rivers flow based on geographical phenomenon.
Technical: Several areas are low lying and needs lift irrigation to transfer water to other side of project.
Economic: Cost of project including compensation for displacement of people lying along project route and returns from the projects.
Ecological: Many rivers have biodiversity sites along its flowing path and pristine forests. In case of this project, it might disturb such areas. Ex: Panna tiger reserve in Ken-Betwa project etc.
National issues: Like many rivers flow between more than two states, so share might increase or decrease
International issues: Like in case of Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra Rivers which flow across borders to other countries, the lower riparian countries might object and go from international dispute tribunals.
The project might be beneficial in many ways and in longer run but all the feasibilities and assessment should be carried out so that at end the project doesn’t get struck up in legal issues and crores of rupees investment is lying idles due to court cases which is very frequent in Indian scenario.
2. What is New Urban Agenda? Discuss its features, significance and relevance for India.
New Urban Agenda is an outcome document agreed upon at United Nations conference known as Habitat III held at Quito, Ecuador. It is aimed at improving urban ecosystems and making urban life more sustainable.
Provide basic services for all citizens.
Ensure that all citizens have access to equal opportunities and face no discrimination
Promote measures that support cleaner cities
Strengthen resilience in cities to reduce the risk and the impact of disasters
Take action to address climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions
Fully respect the rights of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons regardless of their migration status
Improve connectivity and support innovative and green initiatives
Promote safe, accessible and green public spaces
Significance and relevance for India:
Growing Urban population needs access to basic amenities.
Reduce urban squatters and ensure even growth.
Helps to promote sustainable living and reduce pollution.
Arrest urban heat island and related side effects.
Indian cities are facing several challenges across economic, ecological, demographical fronts and thus new urban agenda will help in addressing these challenges efficiently.
3. What is Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ)? Many states are opposed to ESZ. Why? Examine. Also suggest the way out to make it effective.
Definition of ESZ:
Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
To categorise an area as ecologically sensitive, the government looks at topography, climate and rainfall, land use and land cover, roads and settlements, human population, biodiversity corridors and data of plants and animal species.
The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas. They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
Opposition by States:
Activities conducted in eco-sensitive zones are regulated under the Environment (Protection Act) of 1986 and no polluting industry or mine is allowed to come up in such areas.
The guidelines prohibit activities such as commercial mining, commercial use of firewood and major hydropower projects. Industries causing pollution can’t be set up in eco-sensitive zones. Activities such as felling of trees, commercial use of natural water resources, including groundwater harvesting and setting up of hotels and resorts, are regulated in these areas..
Despite forest departments identifying ESZs in time, state governments delays the submission of the proposals to tweak them to please the mining and industry lobbies. As a result, the state proposals exclude several ecologically important areas where mining and industrial works are happening or can take place in the future.
The presence of minerals and resources near PAs has disrupted the identification of ESZs in many states. Goa has been opposing ESZs because most of its iron ore mines are concentrated near wildlife sanctuaries.
Communities living around PAs in several states have protested against ESZs. Though ESZ does not affect the ownership rights of people on land resources, it restricts land-use change. Activities such as widening of roads, construction or expansion of buildings, change of the agriculture system and erection of electric cables becomes regulated.
Making ESZs effective:
There should be regional committees to cross check the identification and notification of ESZs in every state to make sure that due diligence has been followed.
The communities around eco-sensitive areas must be included in the process of identifying and governing the eco-sensitive zones (ESZs).
Tribal rights activists demand local participation and incentives to the community for implementing ESZ. This demand should be met to assuage any fears.
A judiciously planned and notified ESZ will go a long way in protecting the integrity of our few remnant wildlife habitats and PAs (protected areas), while being very mindful of varying regimes of ownership, access and use of these areas.
4. Comment on India’s wetland management system. Examine the associated problems. Also discuss the changes introduced by Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Amendment Rules, 2016.
India, with its varying topography and climatic regimes, supports diverse and unique wetland habitats. As per the latest National Wetland Atlas, India has about 757,000 wetlands with a total area of around 15 million hectares, accounting for nearly 4.7% of the total geographical area of the country.
Based on the directives of the 2006 National Environment Policy and the recommendations made by the National Forest Commission, the Central Government notified the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules in 2010. As per the provision under Rule 5, a Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Secretary of the Environment and Forests. The rules put restrictions on activities such as reclamation, setting up industries in the vicinity of wetlands, solid waste dumping, manufacture or storage of hazardous substances, discharge of untreated effluents, and any permanent construction etc. within the wetlands. It also regulates activities such as hydraulic alterations, unsustainable grazing, harvesting of resources, releasing treated effluents, aquaculture, and agriculture.
Despite the recent national legislation on wetland regulation, a majority of India’s wetlands continue to be ignored in the policy process. The main reason for this is that only a selected number of wetlands have received significant attention (by way of financial and technical assistance from the central government) under the wetland conservation programs and the remaining ones continue to exist in a neglected state. Further, there seems to be a disagreement among the national agencies on the kind of water bodies that can be considered as a wetland.
The development of catchment areas is undertaken without a proper management plan leading to reduced flows, especially in water bodies located downstream.
Water quality assessments are presently undertaken intermittently for a select number of major rivers and lakes. As a result the assessments do not cover small wetlands which play an important role in the hydrological cycle.
WETLANDS AMENDMENT RULES, 2017:
The new rules will replace earlier rules notified in 2010.
It stipulates setting up of SWA (State wetland Authority) in each State/UTs headed by State’s environment minister and include range of government officials and experts.
A comprehensive digital inventory of all wetlands will be created and will be updated every ten years.
Mandatory for state authorities to prepare list of all wetlands and list of wetlands to be notified within six months.
Setting up of National wetlands committee headed by MoEFCC Secretary, to monitor implementation of these rules and oversee work carried out by States. NCW will also advise Central Government on appropriate policies and action programs for conservation and wise use of wetlands.
The rules prohibit activities like conversion of wetland for non-wetland uses including encroachment of any kind, setting up and expansion of industries, waste dumping and discharge.
5. What is ‘polluter pays principle’? Discuss its evolution in India’s environmental Why was it in news recently?
Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) means that the polluter is liable to pay compensation to those affected. It aims at determining how the costs of pollution prevention and control must be allocated and efficient use of resources. Its objectives are:
1.Promotes economic efficiency.
Promotes social justice.
Promotes harmonization of international environmental policies.
Includes accidental pollution, clean up costs and methods.
The National Green Tribunal has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and state pollution control boards to take action against 35 thermal power plants across the country which have failed to install online effluent and emission monitoring system, despite its direction.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India lays down the most fundamental right of all, that is, the right to life and personal liberty. One of the interpretations of the Right to Life is the right to a healthy and safe environment. Every human has the right to live with basic human dignity, which includes the right to live in a healthy, protected and safe environment.
In the case of Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Research v Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that“Article 48A occurring in Part IV of the Constitution provides that State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country.
Similarly, Article 51A(g) occurring in Part IV-A of the Constitution providing for fundamental duties enjoins upon every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.
Neither Article 48A nor Article 51A of the Constitution is judicially enforceable. But in cases of failure of the duties ingrained in these Articles, it becomes enforceable through the expanding interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
The polluter pays principle is an extension of this expansion and thus, acts as a specifically enforceable provision for safeguarding the environment. In Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum v. Union of India, this Court ruled that precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle are part of the environmental law of the country.
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