III. MECHANISMS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO SECTOR POLICIES AND FOR MONITORING
A. Experience and current mechanism for, and future direction of, coordination among relevant ministries and agencies
Prior to setting up the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Environmental Council of CEA served as the coordinating body among the relevant line ministries of the tea sector. Those were represented in the Environmental Council by the most senior officials, that is, the Secretaries who had, inter alia, decision-making capacity on behalf of the concerned ministries. The environmentally-related functions of the agencies within the purview of a line ministry were generally coordinated by that ministry, particularly in relation to policy issues. However, the agencies could deal with CEA directly regarding their own functional environmental issues. The Environmental Council met regularly (once a month) and served as a mechanism to coordinate and resolve policy issues on a continuing basis. CEA, which was authorized to implement environmental policies in general as well as specific sectoral policies when and where applicable, acted on the advice of the Environmental Council.
As noted in chapter II, the management of natural resources has been the responsibility of several ministries and agencies. In that context, policy issues concerning, for example, land-use management and soil conservation (which is of relevance to the tea sector) have to be coordinated and resolved by the relevant line ministry which, in this case, is the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.
CEA has carried out such coordinating functions in consultation with the Environmental Council and with assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, in order to formulate and recommend to the Minister of Agriculture and Lands the adoption of the rational policies on land-use management and soil conservation. The coordinating mechanism also provides for the line ministry to supervise the plantation sector, and to contribute its own inputs and policy considerations pertaining to that sector, when making recommendations for the consideration and adoption of any policy.
Regarding the delegation of specific functions by CEA to local authorities and other government agencies (e.g., granting EPLs to low-polluting processing activities, and which is applicable to the tea sector which only uses fuelwood or fuel with a low sulphur content), it previously appointed the District Environmental Agencies (DEAs) to undertake environmental activities of a supervisory nature in each administrative district. DEA members were determined by CEA. The DEA chairmen were the district Secretaries who exercised supervisory administrative powers in the district as the government representative. DEAs could exercise and perform any authority, and functions or duties that CEA delegated to them, and they served as a coordinating mechanism for the environmental activities of the various institutions in the district. However, the DEAs ceased to be functional following the establishment of Provincial Councils under the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. As a result of the decentralization of administration to the provinces, the district administration (as it then prevailed) was no longer effective.
With the establishment of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the significance and effectiveness of the Environmental Council diminished. According to CEA officials, although the Council continues to meet regularly, the line ministry representation is not at the level where it is adequate for the decision-making process. Furthermore, there appears to be no continuity in the representation and,, as a result, effective coordination has also suffered.
With the decentralization of the central government administration after the creation of Provincial Councils, the administrative structure and coordination mechanisms related to environmental functions have undergone significant changes. Those changes were the result of granting legislative and executive powers to the Provincial Councils in respect of the environment. (The subject, "environment", appears in the Concurrent list of functions in respect of both the central government and the Provincial Councils). On the other hand, at the divisional and local levels, divisional Secretaries and local authorities perform physical planning and other related environmental functions under provincial statutes and laws.
The system which is functional under the present Constitution also gives a Provincial Council the option of enacting its own Provincial Environmental Act (with the approval of the Central Parliament), or creating a Provincial Environmental Authority and other related institutional structures in respect of that province. It is noteworthy that the North-Western Provincial Council has exercised that option. As a result, CEA has no authority over environmentally-related functions in that province and, consequently, the coordinating mechanisms have ceased to function.
In other provinces where the Provincial Councils have not exercised the option, the coordinating mechanisms between the centre and the periphery could still be hampered. Although CEA can delegate specific functions to the local authorities and other State agencies in the provinces (the Chief Secretaries of the Provincial Councils are kept informed of such action), the Provincial Councils may still enact provincial laws and regulations. However, any laws and regulations enacted by the Provincial Councils must enhance, and not diminish, the environmental standards set by CEA under national laws.
In addition to the foregoing issues, it is pertinent to note the following in relation to the complexities of the current coordinating mechanisms between the central and the peripheral administrative levels:
Inadequate coordinating mechanisms are, therefore, considered to be the most critical factor in the existing institutional structures.
A revision of the NEA, to enable it to meet current and future developmental needs in a more meaningful manner, is under consideration. As a future directional measure, the unified coordinating mechanisms encompassing the national, subnational (i.e., provincial) and inter-provincial levels have been discussed at various forums. Some of the salient views that have emerged are:
(a) The formulation and recommendation of a national environmental policy;
(b) The coordination of a national and provincial environmental policy;
(c) Intersectoral environmental planning and the incorporation of environmental considerations into sectoral policies, plans, programmes and projects;
Mechanisms are also needed for ensuring more meaningful coordination between agencies at the national level when addressing specific problems. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry and CEA should have the authority to constitute task forces with specific mandates to address the various problem areas.
In that context, discussions with officials of the Ministry of Plantation Industries revealed that some environmental issues pertaining to the plantations sector, and in particular the tea sector, were vague. It was also found that the Ministry had no real control over those issues, such as land-use issues related to environmental degradation. It was therefore felt that the four concerned Ministries (the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, the Ministry of Mahaweli Development, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the Ministry of Plantation Industries) needed to establish an interministerial task force which would carry out an in-depth analysis of the practical issues related to such problems. The object of the analysis would be to make recommendations for the integration of environmental issues into policy decisions.