Indian Environmental Services

Why was it in the news?

The Supreme Court has asked the government if it is willing to create Indian Environmental Services (IES) as recommended by a committee headed by former Cabinet secretary T.S.R Subramanian in 2014. This was done in response to a petition filed by a lawyer suggesting that matters of the environment required special expertise.

Indian Environmental Services (IES) becomes an important topic of GS Paper 3 from UPSC Mains point of view. Click the link to know the syllabus for mains.

What is T.S.R Subramanian Committee Report on Environment?

  • At present all the matters of environmental regulation come under the Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as bureaucrats from the Indian Administrative Services (IAS).
  • The T.S.R Subramanian committee was set up in August 2014, to review the country’s green laws and the procedures followed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • The report suggested amendments to almost all the green laws, including those relating to environment, forest, wildlife and coastal zone clearances, to align with the Government’s economic development agenda.
  • It also suggested creating another committee, with more expertise and time to review the environmental laws.

Key Recommendations of TSR Subramanian Committee

  • It proposed an ‘Environmental Laws (Management) Act’ (ELMA), envisioning two full-time expert bodies- National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and State Environmental Management Authority (SEMA).
  • NEMA and SEMA to be constituted at the Central and State levels respectively, to evaluate project clearance in a time bound manner, thus providing for single-window clearance.
  • A “fast track” procedure for “linear” projects (roads, railways and transmission lines), power and mining projects and for “projects of national importance” was suggested to accelerate the environmental decision-making process.
  • It suggested that The Air Act and the Water Act should be subsumed within the Environment Protection Act.
  • It proposed to integrate The existing Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards(SPCB), which monitor and regulate the conditions imposed on the industries to safeguard the environment, into the newly proposed NEMA and SEMA.
  • Creation of an appellate mechanism against the decisions of NEMA/SEMA or MoEF&CC, in respect of project clearance, is also proposed in the report. It prescribes a three-month deadline to dispose of appeals.
  • It proposed creation of a National Environment Research institute “on the lines of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education” to bring in the application of high-end technology in environment governance and an Indian Environment Services to recruit qualified and skilled human resources in the environment sector.

Government’s response on the Report-

  • The Center never formally accepted this report. Although many of these recommendations are implicitly making their way into the process of environmental regulation.
  • The point of creation of Indian Environmental Services (IES) was rejected by a parliamentary standing committee on the ground that a dedicated all-India service may lead to multiplicity of institutions and won’t serve the desired purpose.

Relevance Of A New Service

  • India’s response to the present environmental issues is mostly reactive that means action being taken only when a problem arises. But environmental issues need an active approach which includes optimising resources , ensuring sustainability, creating awareness and an early warning system to minimise risks.
  • The country already has a dedicated Indian Forest Service, but despite that a number of agencies have come up to deal with environmental issues, like the NGT and the Commission for Air Quality Management, which points to the lacunae of the current system.
  • Amid this multiplicity of agencies, what is required is better coordination to implement plans of these nodal agencies.
  • These agencies should be empowered to have the necessary powers and resources at their disposal to enforce the rules.
  • While deliberating with the idea of creating a new service, it may be prudent to enlarge the scope and jurisdiction of the present service.

Conclusion

  • Our entire environmental governance is centred on clearances, thus we need reforms in the present environmental governance.
  • The process must involve reforming our laws, strengthening our institutions and streamlining the processes.
  • The new committee should consider all these together and come out with better recommendations for taking requisite actions.

Also, learn about the All India Services, by clicking the link.

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