Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A Report on Conference of State Environment and Forest Ministers

Dhirendra Kumar
News Curator and Moderator
Indian Botanists
A two days conference of State Environment and Forest Ministers was held at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi on 6-7th April 2015. Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi inaugurated the conference and said, India, which has had a long tradition of living in harmony with nature, should lead the global fight against climate change.
The Conference was attended by 34 State Ministers of Environment and Forest, as well as 340 senior State government officials from Environment and Forest and Urban Development. Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, Shri Nripendra Mishra and Cabinet Secretary, Shri Ajit Seth were among those present on the occasion.

Welcome speech by Shri Prakash Javadekar
In his welcome speech, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Independent Charge, Shri Prakash Javadekar emphasised the transformation from individual project-based approach to a policy-based decision making process. He also stressed the need for monitoring and compliance, rather than merely prescribing conditions. 

Taking cognisance of the hazards posed by construction waste, Shri Javadekar assured that rules for construction waste would be finalised within 15 days. He stated that Standard Terms of Reference for 39 industries, released earlier by the Prime Minister will bring down the time-span of granting approvals from six months to one year earlier, to 30 days now. The Minister reiterated the government’s commitment to the Mission of Clean India and Green India. Shri Javadekar also presented a ‘Giloi’ plant to the Prime Minister on the occasion. Artists from All India Radio presented a “Prakriti Vandana’ as a tribute to the nature, penned by Smt. Madhu Pant, former director of Bal Bhawan.

Inaugural Speech by Shri Narendra Modi

Inaugurating the Conference of State Environment and Forest Ministers in New Delhi today, the Prime Minister expressed disappointment that India's culture of respecting and loving nature has not been sufficiently projected on the global arena, and the country is occasionally perceived to be a barrier in the global fight against climate change. The Prime Minister said the people of India have been the protectors and devotees of nature. He said we need to project this fact properly, so that the world realizes that India cannot be questioned in this regard. He said Indians have always conserved nature, and even today, have among the lowest per-capita carbon emission, globally. He said the way forward is not just restrictions, but changing lifestyles. He said the culture of recycle and re-use is not new for India. Instead of being forced to follow parameters laid down by others, India should lead the world in the fight against climate change, he added. 

Shri Narendra Modi said development and environment protection can go hand in hand, but there are serious misconceptions being spread in this regard. Giving the example of the Land Acquisition Bill, he said the provisions of the Bill do not touch tribal and forest land. But serious misconceptions and lies are being spread about this Bill. He urged those spreading such lies, to desist from doing so, and said these attempts to misguide society are harming the nation. 

The Prime Minister called upon the world to ease restrictions for India on import of nuclear fuel, so that India could also produce clean nuclear energy in a big way. He said the Government is focusing on clean energy generation in a big way, through solar radiation, wind and biomass.

Activities During the Conference
  • Exhibition on environmental theme
  • Prime Minister released a "Standard Terms of Reference for Environment Impact Analysis".
  • The Prime Minister also launched a National Air Quality Index, which will monitor the quality of air in major urban centres across the country on a real-time basis.
  • The ten cities where the quality of air can be monitored are Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. 
  • It is proposed to extend the measurement of air quality to 22 State capitals and 44 other cities with a population exceeding one million.
Resolution Adopted at the State Environment and Forest Ministers’ Conference
  • Adhere to timelines prescribed for processing of online applications for FC to clear backlog accumulated up to 31-03-2015 by end of June 2015, or earlier as per prescribed timelines; 
  • Establish effective mechanism for source segregation of waste by generators and arrange door-to-door collection of segregated solid waste in all urban areas within two years and put in place authorised waste recycling arrangements for the waste processing; 
  • Ensure that recycled materials from construction and demolition waste is mandatorily used in non-load bearing structures; 
  • Ensure that industrial area/zone/cluster plans mandatorily have waste recycling units; 
  • Share common treatment storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs) for hazardous waste with other States; 
  • Arrange a web-based platform for integration of various kinds of approvals with respect to waste management; 
  • Enforce effective plastic waste management and e-waste management by involving Producers through Extended Producers Responsibility. 
  • A comprehensive amendment of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 may be prepared to ensure effective implementation of law; • States will send geo-reference maps of all the forest areas and notify all the CA areas transferred and mutated in favour of forest department as RF/PF latest by 31.10.2015; 
  • States will realise outstanding NPV latest by 31.5.2015 and will create land bank in degraded/non-forest/revenue forest lands; 
  • States will accord high priority for research in emerging areas, fill vacancies at field level and take steps to improve working conditions in Forest Departments; 
  • State Forest Departments will objectively assess the animal population of species and carefully consider the option of population management; 
  • Delineation of Eco-sensitive Zones must be completed by 30.6.2015. In case the boundary of a PA is along interstate border, the states concerned will work jointly for finalizing the proposal based on the parameters recommended by NBWL; 
  • All tiger range states will constitute State level Steering Committees and prepare Tiger Conservation Plans including voluntary village relocation from core/critical tiger habitats;
  • Protect, restore and enhance India’s green cover and take steps to:
    • Constitute State, District and Cluster level Committees as per GIM guidelines within three months. 
    • Identify landscapes based on bio-geophysical and socio-economic parameters. 
    • Issue of Government orders for convergence (at implementation level) with other existing programmes. 
    • Identify and propagate indigenous species suited to their local environment. 

  • All participating Ministries, States/UTs will provide their inputs on the recommendations that have been made by the High Level Committee and circulated to the Central Ministries/State Governments/UT Administrators at the earliest but positively by 30th April, 2015. 
  • Work towards developing a national environment and forest database for expedited integration of clearances and enforcement of stipulated safeguards; 
  • Resolved that the provisions on “Violations” need to be rationalised and civil penalty provisions be incorporated in EPA and pollution related Acts; 
  • To establish Green Platform – environmental database to the Project Proponent and for filing compliances; 
  • States to start online submission of applications for TOR and EC before October 2015; 
  • Resolved that guidelines on sustainable sand mining and sustainable and environment friendly building norms be issued at the earliest; 
  • To adopt pollution criteria for categorisation of Red, Orange and Green categories of industries and that a Committee be constituted with State representatives; 
  • To give consent to operate with the validity period of five years in respect of Red categories, 10 years for Orange categories and one time consent for Green category; 
  • Make treatment of sewage and granting consents to the Municipal authorities mandatory under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; 
  • To revisit Standard treatment of sewage proposed by CPCB and secondary treated sewage be recycled and used for non-potable purposes;
  • Resolved that States that have not yet notified State specific Rules under Section 63 of the Biological Diversity Act will notify the same by December 2015 and States whose rules are not in consonance with the Act will amend the rules by December 2015; 
  • States will communicate their approval to the list of threatened species to the MoEF&CC by July 2015; 
  • States may develop year-wise five year plan by 15 May 2015 for setting up of BMCs at appropriate local level and for preparing PBRs by BMCs, giving priority to biodiversity rich areas; 
  • States will consider declaring at least one Biodiversity Heritage Site in 2015-16; 
  • States shall put in place a transparent and effective mechanism for access to biological resources in their jurisdiction as envisaged under Section 7 and recently issued ABS guidelines by June 2015; 
  • States shall prepare a shelf of projects immediately and will submit at least 1 project of upto Rs. 10 crore for National Adaptation Fund/National Clean Environment Fund and 1 project costing up to Rs. 30 crore for Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) within 30 days; 
  • States will prepare demonstration projects under Climate Change Action Programme (CCAP) during FY 2015-16 and will submit at least 1 project worth upto 10-25 million USD for submission to Green Climate Fund;
  • MoEF&CC has coordinated with various expert agencies and offered that the States could seek assistance from agencies like GIZ (Government of Germany), DFID (Government of UK), SDC (Government of Switzerland), UNDP, NABARD and other notified agencies for project preparation.

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