NHRC gets tough over pollution, asks Centre, States & HCs to file ATR in 3 months

NHRC gets tough over pollution, asks Centre, States & HCs to file ATR in 3 months

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued an advisory to the Centre and the State Governments to prevent, minimise and mitigate impacts of environmental pollution and degradation on human rights.

The Commission has finalized the Advisory in consultation with the domain experts by examining the effects of air & water pollution and ecological degradation on enjoyment of basic human rights.

Finalising the draft Advisory, the Commission Chairman Justice Arun Mishra has observed that in spite of having one of the world’s best statutory and policy framework for environment protection, India is experiencing a serious problem of air and water pollution and ecological degradation, causing impediments in the enjoyment of basic human rights.

Secretary General of the Commission Devendra Kumar Singh has issued the advisory to the Secretaries of concerned Union Ministries/Departments, Chief Secretaries of States and Administrators of Union Territories and the Registrar of all High Courts. He asked them all to implement the commission’s recommendations nonted in the Advisory and sought Action Taken Report (ATR) within three months.

The Advisory has focused on five key areas for action by the Centre and State Governments. These include: Punishment of polluters and violators of environmental laws; Prevention and minimization of vehicular pollution; Processing of proposals seeking clearances/approvals mandated by various environmental laws in an informed, transparent and non-partisan manner; Measures required for development, promotion, propagation and replication of cost effective innovative measures to prevent, minimise and mitigate environmental pollution and degradation & strengthening and capacity building of local bodies.

Important Recommendations:

  • The Union and State Governments should make efforts to ensure effective and expeditious punishment of polluters and violators of environmental laws. These efforts should include strengthening of Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) and other regulatory authorities.
  • Creation of separate investigation and prosecution wings in Pollution Control Boards and regular training of the staff.
  • Making it mandatory for the Pollution Control Boards to include in their annual reports a chapter containing details of investigation of cases.
  • State Governments should undertake annual performance audit of the State Pollution Control Boards by independent expert auditors.
  • The State Judicial Academies, State Legal services Authorities and District Legal Services Authorities in collaboration with the Pollution Control Boards should organize workshops, seminars and training programs on various provisions of environmental laws and harmful impacts of pollution and environmental degradation for all stakeholders.
  • High Courts should establish Special Environmental Courts and ensure speedy trial of the cases, involving violation of environmental laws.
  • The Centre and State Government should monitor performance of agencies entrusted to issue pollution under control (PUC) certificates and take appropriate punitive measures in case of false, fabricated or fraudulent certificates;
  • The Centre should endeavour to complete, as early as possible, the ongoing project to establish a geographical information system (GIS) based Decision Support System (DSS) containing updated layers on each parameter considered for grant of Consent to Establish/Operate and Environmental/Forest/Wildlife/Coastal Regulation Zone Clearances;
  • The DSS for processing of applications seeking prior consent/clearance should have a section on environment management knowledge, containing details of all available best practices on prevention, minimization and mitigation of environmental pollution and degradation;
  • The Union and State Governments should create public awareness through print, electronic and social media about best practices on prevention, minimization and mitigation of environmental pollution and degradation;
  • Each Local Body should establish an environmental cell to plan, supervise and monitor various activities to prevent, minimize and mitigate environmental pollution/degradation and for waste management;
  • The State Finance Commissions may undertake assessment as to requirement of funds by local bodies.
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