Stiff fines soon to enforce environment laws’ compliance: Javadekar

New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) Presenting “compliance” as the roadmap for the next three years, union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Monday said that soon a strong civil penalty law would be bought in to mitigate the “ridiculously low” fines for environment violations.

“We will soon bring a strong civil penalty law because the existent fines for the environment violations are so low that offenders themselves come happily to get a receipt,” Javadekar said here while presenting his ministry’s two years’ report card.

He said that while the country has several rules against environment violation, the compliance with those rules will be a major priority for his ministry.

“On chopping off a tree, one gets fined Rs.800. For industrial violations, they are slapped with a fine of Rs.1 lakh, which is like Rs.25,000 for each of the four directors of an industry. They came happily to submit it. This will soon change,” Javadekar said citing some examples.

Replying to a query from IANS on the narrow green corridor that restricts animal movement and also leads to man-animal conflicts, Javadekar said the government is working on a policy to “incentivise” against land acquisition in corridors.

He said the government was mulling a policy where states or people can let their land around forest areas be acquired against an alternative plot of land in the corridor.

“We are thinking of a policy to give incentives to project proponents to offer land in corridor because that’s the only way to make it forest land. For every compensatory afforestation, the project proponent has to give an alternative land,” he said.

The minister cited the example of Amravati, the proposed Andhra Pradesh capital, saying the state government has given a lot of land for the conservation of the green corridor.

Javadekar pointed out increase in forest cover, quick approval of projects and transparency, real time monitoring and crack-down on industrial pollution, revising waste management norms, 35 percent drop in industrial pollution in the Ganga, and unlocking of Rs.40,000 crore for afforestation under CAMPA bill which is due in Rajya Sabha as major achievements of his ministry in last two years.

“Over 2,000 approvals had unlocked Rs.10 lakh crore worth investment and created 10 lakh jobs. Project approval period was reduced from 600 days to 190 days,” Javadekar said.

“Mangrove cover has increased by 100 sq km, and detailed high-resolution coastal map and High Tide Line drawn with high-resolution technology and low-flying survey are some of the efforts made by the government,” he said.

“We have 21 percent of forest cover and target to increase that by 35 percent through planting trees outside forest areas.”

He highlighted the adoption of a scientific formula to review Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) and re-categorisation of industries on the basis of pollution load, as one of the major initiative to crack down on pollution.

The minister also screened an 11-minute film on the new initiatives and efforts of his ministry, where Javadekar was seen claiming a “bumpy” beginning two years back due to “poor performance” of the previous United Progressive Alliance government.