Environment Feature

Bills Passed in the Monsoon Session and Their Impact on India’s Ecology

A total of twenty two bills were passed in the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session despite working for less than half its scheduled time. 20 of these Bills were discussed for less than an hour before passing. Many bills were passed within two to three minutes. Several controversial bills were also passed during this session which can result in long term impact on the environment and the society.

The Monsoon Session of the Indian Parliament, held from July 20th to August 11th, witnessed the passing of 22 bills amid a tumultuous political atmosphere due to the ongoing Manipur conflict, marked by walkouts and a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. While these developments grabbed headlines, it is essential to shine a light on the bills themselves, some of which have sparked concerns about their potential negative impact on India’s fragile ecology.

Bills Passed in the Monsoon Session:

Indian parliament | Photo: PradeepGaurs/Shutterstock

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023:

    • This bill opens the door for the private sector to mine six out of 12 atomic minerals, including lithium, essential for electric vehicles and energy storage.
    • Deep-seated minerals like gold and silver can now be explored and mined by private entities.
    • The central government gains exclusive authority to auction mining leases for critical minerals.

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill:

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Photo: Jim Corbett National Park

    • Amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, exempt specific types of land from its purview.
    • The Act now permits non-forest activities within forest lands, such as running zoos and eco-tourism facilities.
    • Forests within 100 km of the national border can be cleared for “strategic linear projects of national importance” without central government permission.

Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill:

    • This bill amends the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002, introducing competitive bidding for allocating operating rights in maritime zones.
    • It allows the government to reserve offshore areas without operating rights.
    • The bill establishes an Offshore Areas Mineral Trust to fund exploration and mining in offshore areas.

Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021:

    • Amendments to the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, expedite research and patent application processes while decriminalizing offenses.
    • A benefit-sharing mechanism is introduced to ensure local communities and traditional knowledge holders receive a fair share of biodiversity commerce benefits.
    • Registered practitioners of AYUSH and local communities are exempt from prior intimation requirements for accessing biological resources for commercial use.

Environmental Impact:

Mining Bills and Environmental Concerns:

Photo: Getty Images

    • The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill and the Offshore Areas Mineral (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill raise concerns about unchecked exploitation of natural resources by private entities.
    • Deep-seated minerals, including gold and silver, are difficult and expensive to mine, posing ecological risks.

Forest Conservation Amendments: 

    • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill permits activities like zoos and eco-tourism within forest lands, potentially disrupting sensitive ecosystems.
    • Clearing forests near national borders without central government oversight may pose environmental risks.

Biological Diversity Amendment:

    • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill’s decriminalisation of offences raises concerns about potential biopiracy and bio-loot.
    • Exempting AYUSH practitioners and others from compliance may weaken biodiversity management efforts.

These bills were passed with minimal debate during a session characterised by political upheaval, allowing them to become law without adequate scrutiny. The amendments effectively weaken the environmental protections established by previous governments.

The Monsoon Session may have ended with political fireworks, but the long-term environmental consequences of the bills passed deserve our attention. It is crucial for policymakers, environmentalists, and citizens to closely monitor and address these concerns to ensure the continued health and sustainability of India’s delicate ecology. The future of the nation’s environmental protection efforts hangs in the balance, and it is our collective responsibility to safeguard it.

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About the author

Hemlata Chouhan