Speaking at the valedictory session of the ‘International Conference on Environment’, organized by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Supreme Court Judge Justice M B Lokur today questioned the government over non-utilisation of amounts, collected as compensatory afforestation funds for environment purposes.
“The green bench of the Supreme Court has been passing orders and huge amounts of money running into thousands of crores of rupees have been collected by the government. Where has that money gone? Certainly, it has not gone for the improvement of the environment, because over the last few years, we have seen degradation of the environment and defoliation of forests,” Justice Lokur said.
Justifying the judicial activism, he said, “It had to “come” in the absence of laws or their shoddy implementation.” Pointing out on the Supreme Court involvement in environmental jurisprudence since long Justice Lokur said that the courts alone could not bear the burden, the government must also bear it.
Rebutting the assertion Union Minister Prakash Javedekar said, “The government has a good account of how we have collected the money and it is using it on renewable energy and climate change. it is not diverted anywhere.” Javedekar also added that India was the only country which taxed coal production at the rate of 6 US dollars per tonne, which no other country in the world had done so far and the government was committed to using cleaner methods for generating power.
Speaking on the steps taken by the government to curb the pollution Javedekar said that his government aims at implementing the Bharat Standard (BS) VI emission norms by January 1, 2020, and it has already issued instructions to all the automobile manufacturers in this regard.
Giving the example of Delhi Metro, Javedekar said that development and environment were not rivals. On the launch of Delhi Metro, many NGOs created controversy over felling of trees. “Now there are 200 metro stations and nearly 20,000 trees were cut but 60-70% of those were replanted. 3 million passengers travel every day in an environment-friendly manner. This is how we should look at the problem holistically,” he added.
NGT Chairperson Justice Swatantra Kumar also spoke on the occasion and said the green panel had added new dimensions to the facets of environmental jurisprudence.