NEW DELHI: In a move that would further dilute environmental laws, Environment Ministry has come up with new draft wetland conservation rules whereby its has removed the list of prohibited activities which was in the previous one and has completely shifted the entire burden of wetlands protections from the Centre to the respective states.
The Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2016 restricts activities like reclamation of wetlands, and conversion for non-wetland uses, any diversion or impediment to natural water inflows and outflows of the wetland and any activity having or likely to have an adverse impact on ecological character of the wetland.
However, there was a detailed list of prohibited activities in the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010, like setting up of new industries and expansion of existing industries, solid waste dumping, manufacturing or handling or storage or disposal of hazardous substances, discharge of untreated waste and effluents from industries, cities, towns and other human settlements, any construction of permanent nature.
The 2010 document empowered Ministry of Environment and Forests to protect the notified wetlands in collaboration with the concerned states in the country. But the draft document seeks to shift the entire burden of wetlands protections from the centre to the respective states with no overseeing responsibility whatsoever except in case of dilution of the prohibitions as sought by a state.
The previous rule called for creation of a Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) while 2016 draft says all state governments shall set up a state level wetlands authority entrusted with affairs related to wetland conservation, regulation and management.
“In case a state government does not form the state level Wetlands authority, the GOI has kept no handle with it to ensure implementation of the central Environment Protection Act, 1986 under which these rules have been made, nor any time limit been set by the MoEFCC in the Rules wherein a state shall set up the said Wetlands Authority,” said Manoj Mishra, convener, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
Wetland refers to ecosystems located at the interface of land and water and wherein water plays a dominant role in controlling plant and animal life and associated ecosystem processes. The ministry has made draft rules public last week and has invited comments from all stakeholders and experts by 6th June.