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Merging of Environmental Organisations UPSC NOTE

 


Merging of Environmental Organisations

  • In June, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued a notification quietly walking back on its move to establish integrated regional offices by merging offices of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), and thus bring them under the Ministry.

Environmental bodies in India

  • The NTCA is the managing authority of Project Tiger and India’s Tiger Reserves. 

  • The FSI is a scientific body that primarily deals with forest data. 

  • The WCCB is an enforcement authority. 

  • And the CZA’s purview is limited to the functioning of zoos.

What was the Ministry’s rationale?

  • MoEFCC justified the merger for “ease of doing business”.

  • The intention was to get the various authorities to function at 19 regional offices, under one roof.

Concerns raised

  • It would render key environmental organisations “toothless”. 

    • For example, in the existing structure, the NTCA can oppose a forest clearance for an infrastructure project for diverting Tiger Reserve areas. 

    • The proposed merger would have rendered this difficult as the NTCA would have come under the Deputy Director General of Forests, who is in charge of the Integrated Regional Office and reports to the Ministry.

  • NTCA had opposed the merger, saying it could lead to “administrative confusion, chaos … loss of independence, undue interference in decision making, [and] loss of focus in discharging duties and responsibilities.”

  • It would amount to a merger of entities and authorities that is impermissible in law.

  • The same notification also proposes to reorganise existing regional offices, and this idea too has come under criticism because it does not appear to be based on any objective criteria. 

  • For example, the Bengaluru regional office would have had jurisdiction over three States and a Union Territory with different geographic and ecological characteristics — Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, and Lakshadweep.

Way forward

  • Experts articulated a need for disintegrated and dedicated efforts across the board, including to strengthen environmental monitoring functions.

  • In recent years, the role and functions of regional offices of the Ministry have been widened both to process environmental approvals and monitor compliance of legally mandated safeguards during project construction, operation, and closures. 

  • As a result, such widened roles require additional funding and infrastructural support, but it remains unclear if such support has been provided.

  • Decentralised infrastructure is essential as it increases accessibility to regulators and can potentially enhance legal enforcement.

  • An internal mechanism to review whether the offices are able to prioritise their actions in such a way that they don’t disproportionately favour any regulatory outcomes, while upholding environmental protection without compromising social justice.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Merging of Environmental Organisations UPSC NOTE
Merging of Environmental Organisations UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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