1. Ranking of States on Faster Green Nods
- The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Changehas decided to rank states, specifically the state Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs), based on the speed with which they grant Environmental Clearances (EC) to development projects.
- It was decided to incentivize states through a star-rating system based on EC grantefficiency and timeliness.
- The SEIAA will be ranked highest because it clears projects in the shortest amount of time, has a high clearance rate, and seeks fewer “essential details.”
What are the parameters for the rating system?
SEIAAs will be graded from 0 to 1 on five parameters and from 0 to 2 on one. The parameters are as follows:
- The average number of days it takes an SEIAA to accept proposals for either EC or Terms of Reference (ToR) for projects.
- The total number of complaints handled by the Authority.
- The percentage of cases in which site visits are conducted by SEIAAs or State Expert Appraisal Committees (SEACs).
- The percentage of times the Authority requests additional information from project proponents.
- The percentage of proposals seeking new or amended ToRs that are more than 30 days old that are disposed of.
- The percentage of proposals seeking a new or amended EC that have been discarded if they are older than120 days.
- Enable “ease of doing business,” particularly in the context of “time taken for clearances”.
- Foster healthy competition among states as it will act as mode of recognition and encouragement for states.
- Will prompt states to make improvements where necessary while taking decisions.
- Reduce the SEIAA to the status of a “Rubber Stamp Authority”: as speed is given more importance than quality, it will facilitate environmental degradation.
- The move will severely constrain the mandate of the SEIAAs under the Environment Protection Act, 1986:
- Rating system may lead to a further dilution in the quality of environmental impact assessments, and it only demonizes the regulatory process, whereas it is the state of the economy as a whole that has stifled the business growth.
- The rating system also violates environmental law, violates article 21 of the Constitution (Protection of Life and Personal Liberty) by jeopardising community livelihood.
- It is an arbitrary exercise of power that benefits only businesses at the cost of the environment and people.
- The criteria for assessing the performance of SEIAAs should be based on this environmental protection mandate, which is derived from Section 3(3) of the Environment Protection Act-Central Government can establish authorities (under section 3(3)) to prevent all forms of environmental pollution and addressing specific environmental problems peculiar to different parts of the country. This provision is being violated through the notification.
Other environmental laws dilution over time:
- The average time to grant the environmental clearances has reduced significantly across all sectors, from more than 150 days in 2019 to less than 90 days in 2021.
- However there is no evidence that reducing time has improved the level of scrutiny on projects.
- The provisions for public hearing has been weakened through amendment in EIA Act.
- The deadline for compliance with emission norms for most thermal power plants have been extended from 2022 to 2025.
- Reduction in ecological protection accorded to A&N islands through changes in Island coastal regulation zone.
- Amendments in Forest Conservation Act to allow use of forests for infrastructural projects in areas of “strategic importance”.
- Though the philosophy of Environmental Impact Assessment is most important for protecting the environment and maintaining a balance between ecology and the economy, development, and pollution, it is necessary to revamp the time taking stages as they have become a major impediment in starting a business in India.
2. Climate & Quad
- In the first-ever in-person leaders’ summit of the Quad (held in the US in 2021), the nations pledged to fight the climate crisis and partner on emerging technologies.
- Improving critical climate information-sharing and disaster-resilient infrastructure to improve Indo-Pacific region’s resilience to climate change.
- Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure to provide technical assistance in small island developing states.
- Setting up a Climate and Information Services Task Force
Areas of Cooperation
What are China’s views on the Quad?
There is a general understanding that the Quad would not take on a military dimension against any country. The strategic community in China, nevertheless, had branded it an emerging “Asian NATO”.
- Quad can drive inclusive energy transition in technology, manufacturing, and finance.
- They can provide much-needed technology expertise required to achieve the energy transition goals set under frameworks such as the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and OSOWOG (One Sun One World One Grid).
- India is well-placed to provide manufacturing infrastructure to build these technologies. To take over from China as the “world’s factory”, it will have to mirror its advantages of large-scale production at low costs.
New areas of collaboration decided in QUAD summit:
- Clean Hydrogen Partnership: To strengthen and reduce costs across all elements of the clean-hydrogen value chain, leveraging existing bilateral and multilateral hydrogen initiatives.
- A joint initiative of QUAD nations to map and identify vulnerabilities and bolster supply-chain security for semiconductors and their vital components. This aims to secure critical technologies essential for digital economies globally.
- QUAD senior cyber group for adoption and implementation of secured cyber standards; development of secure software and trustworthy digital infrastructure.
- QUAD nations share Satellite Data to Protect the Earth and its Waters. In order to mitigate climate-change risks and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources and to build capacity in other Indo-pacific states in coordination with QUAD Climate Working Group.
- The divergence in geographic areas of maritime priority among the four nations is considered as a weakness of the Quad.
- The differences between the four Quad countries in terms of military capability, strategic culture, and the capacity to bear the costs of potential Chinese retaliation are generally wide.
- Formation of AUKUS is seen as a challenge to functioning of QUAD.
- The ASEAN countries also have a well-knit relationship with China. The Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP)is a recent example of China’s increasing influence over ASEAN
- Considering the economic might of China and the dependence of Quad nations like Japan and Australia on China, the Quad nations cannot afford to have strained relations with it.
3. Engage with Myanmar
- India shares a 1640 km long border with north-eastern states.
- India has “historical ties and traditional bonds of friendship and cooperation” with Myanmar and Five Bs are the base of India-Myanmar relations – Buddhism, Business, Bollywood, Bharatnatyam and Burma teak.
Areas of cooperation:
- Bilateral trade between the two countries has, for long, remained at around $2 billion.
- Pulses form the single largest item in Myanmar’s limited export basket.
- Indian businesses invest in the power, steel, automobiles and even textile sectors in Myanmar.
- Myanmar has acquired rocket launchers, night vision systems, radar and engineering equipment, including $37.9 million worth of torpedoes, from India. the joint exercise, named ‘Ataturk XI-2021’, is aimed at focussing on counter-terrorist operations.
- 11th-century Ananda Temple in Myanmar is being renovated with India’s assistance.
- Free movement regime (FMR) permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16-km across the boundary without visa restrictions.
- The FMR helps tribes across the border to maintain their age-old ties.
India’s assistance in Capacity Building:
- Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research and Education set up in collaboration with India’s ICAR is a fine example of pooling research efforts on pulses and oilseeds.
- India’s timely help of medicines and equipment to fight the corona pandemic.
- No other country has committed as much in grant-in-aid to Myanmar as India. These include:
- Kaladan multi-modal corridor
- Repair of 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa road
- Construction of the 120-km Kalewa-Yargyi corridor d. Rhi-Tiddim road in the Chin state bordering Mizoram.
- As part of India’s SAGAR Vision, India developed the Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
- ASEAN: As the only ASEAN country which shares a land border with India, Myanmar is a bridge between India and ASEAN.
- BIMSTEC: Myanmar’s major exports to India are agricultural products like beans, pulses and maize and forest products such as teak and hardwoods. Its imports from India include chemical products, pharmaceuticals, electrical appliances and transport equipment.
- SAARC: Myanmar was given the status of observer in SAARC in August 2008.
- MEKONG GANGA COOPERATION: MGC is an initiative by six countries – India and five ASEAN countries namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – for cooperation in the fields of tourism, education, culture, transport and communication.
- Influence of China: Momentum of the Belt and Road Initiative may end India’s East Act Policy.
- Beijing is investing in projects to improve the Sittwe–Kunming route.
- Porous Indo-Myanmar Border: it facilitates cross-border movement of militants, illegal arms and drugs. Myanmar is part of ‘GOLDEN TRAINAGLE’ which is against India’s national security.
- Rohingya Issue: Around 40,000 Rohingyas are said to be staying illegally in India.
- Negotiations on the deportation of Rohingya to Myanmar are a point of contention.
- Lack of basic infrastructure and low trading volume at the Indian border.
- Conflict in Rakhine state is central to several connectivity projects currently underway between India and Myanmar like the Kaladan Multi-modal highway. Conflict within the region has slowed the progress of such projects. This does not augur well for bilateral trade.
- Even as India continues to call for a restoration of the democratic process, it shall engage with the army in Myanmar to address Indian concerns as well. Marginalising the army will only push it into China’s arms.
- India’s “Buddhist Circuit” initiative, which seeks to double foreign tourist arrivals by connecting ancient Buddhist heritage sites across different states in India, should resonate with Buddhist-majority Myanmar. This could also build up India’s diplomatic reservoir of goodwill and trust.
- The quicker the Rohingya issue is resolved, the easier it will be for India to manage its relations with Myanmar and Bangladesh, focusing instead more on bilateral and sub-regional economic cooperation.