India promulgated a series of environmental legislations between 1980 and 2005 to ensure that environmental and social impacts of infrastructure development and industrialisation are kept in check and timely mitigation is undertaken. However, since their inception, these laws have undergone numerous amendments, with very little attention being paid to the aspect of monitoring and compliance of these laws.
As a result, answers to key questions, listed below, remain ambiguous:
- What happens to the projects once they are granted approvals?
- Do they comply with all the conditions imposed on them for mitigating or minimising environmental and social impacts?
- Who oversees these processes and what is the extent to which compliance is achieved?
Although in May this year, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has indicated ‘that its focus over the next three years will be on compliance of rules and laws’, challenges such as lack of human resources, limited reach on the ground and other constraints continue to remain unaddressed.
A new study by the CPR-Namati team, titled How Effective are Environmental Regulations to Address Impacts of Industrial and Infrastructure Projects in India, addressed these pressing concerns.
The study identifies the institutions responsible for monitoring and compliance under various environmental laws and their procedures and practices. It also observes and documents how affected communities engage with these institutions to seek mitigation of impacts of various kinds such as damage to common property, loss of livelihoods and loss of access to public spaces. The study:
- details the existing environment and compliance framework;
- provides concise flowcharts explaining clearance and monitoring and enforcement procedures of responsible institutions;
- analyses the publicly available government data available on compliance under different laws;
- presents and analyses case studies on efforts of affected communities to engage with institutions to craft remedies for existing environmental impacts;
- discusses a range of findings related to limitations of monitoring protocols, data inconsistences, and need for third party monitoring by affected communities as well as the need for linking compliance to decision making.
This study shares critical lessons, which if turned into concrete policy on environment monitoring and compliance could address the chasm between enforcement of environmental regulations and the ever-growing difficulties of meeting environmental challenges.
The full report can be accessed here