Plans afoot to divide India into green zones

, by CHAUHAN Chetan

India is set to get a new environment protection framework wherein national institutions will frame and monitor zonal disaster management plans to be implemented by the state governments. The new framework is aimed at reducing burden of district magistrates in environmental
regulation and has an effective system to prevent ecological degradation.

Environment secretary T Chatterjee said the ministry was working out the new policy framework which could be evolved with the help of the state governments.

This is the first major announcement after Jayanthi Natarajan took over as new environment minister.

Industrial areas such as Vapi in Gujarat and Sukinda in Orissa are among the world’s 10 most polluted areas, according to New York based Blacksmith Institute.

Both river and air pollution in India is on a steady rise causing a public health concern.

The ministry through the new framework wants to have an institutional mechanism to check factories for environment management and disaster management and hold the violators accountable.

“National institutions such as National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and Disaster Management Institute would be in-charge of preparing plans for different parts of India and then monitoring its implementation,” Chatterjee said.

India will be divided into different zones and a national institute will be in-charge of each zone. The institutes will first prepare a plan for each zone, which the industry falling in that zone will have to implement.

The factories inspectorate in each district will get the plan implemented and will work with the institutes in monitoring its “effective” implementation.

The new framework is following the ministry’s conclusion that the state pollution control boards do not have an institutional strength to implement environmental laws on the ground level.

“The district magistrates are already burdened with other administrative work... We think it is a viable alternative,” the secretary said.

The model being conceptualized has backing of Natarajan who emphasized on a need to harmonise economic growth with environment protection.

“We have to re-define progress module to ensure environmental sustainability... Ill-designed policies do not mitigate environment degradation,” she said, while emphasizing on ensuring environment justice for all.

The ministry will soon be holding discussions with the state governments on the new framework to build consensus.