(Environment & Ecology)General Studies Paper 3
Question:- What is Environmental Impact Assessment and what is its significance. Critically evaluate the implications of star-rating of states for according Environmental Clearances (EC). Answer in 250 words (15 marks)
Jun 04, 2022

INTRODUCTION: Define EIA and write about its purpose.

BODY PARAGRAPH: Significance of EIA+ downsides of star-rating system – use diagrams to represent EIA; also, use a schematic for the downsides of EIA.

CONCLUSION: Suggest measures for better EIA and conclude by explaining the importance of all steps in conserving ecology for future generations.

Answer:-

INTRODUCTION:

According to UNEP, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used
to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior
to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early
stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce
adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present
the predictions and options to decision-makers. (Create a diagrammatic
representation of this definition).

 

SIGNIFICANCE:

  1. 1. In present times anthropogenic activities like rapid industrialization, mass production and clearing of forests have created immense pressure on the natural resources. EIA facilitates sustainable development: by balancing the need for economic growth with sustainability.
    2. It mitigates negative impacts through informed decision-making. It enables monitoring of programmes to be established to assess future impacts and provide data on which managers can take informed decisions to avoid environmental damage.
    3. EIA helps in selection and design of projects, programmes or plans with long term viability and therefore improves cost effectiveness.
    4. Advance assessments also helps avoid future losses that may be incurred if the project is found environmentally unacceptable at a later stage. Cost of adaptation when a project is already running is usually more.
  2. 5. In India Environmental clearance of a project has to be obtained either from the State Government and /or from the Central Government.
    6. The State Environmental Impact Assessment Agencies are responsible for providing environmental clearance for a bulk of the infrastructure, developmental and industrial projects.

 

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has decided to rank states, specifically State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs), on the speed with which they accord Environmental Clearances (EC) to development projects. The SEIAA, which clears projects in the shortest period of time, has a high rate of clearance, and seeks fewer “essential details”, will be ranked the highest.
A star-rating system, based on efficiency and timeliness in grant of EC has been put in place. This is intended as a mode of recognition and encouragement as well as for prompting improvements where needed. However, the Star – rating system scheme also hampers the Environmental Impact Assessment and has a downside to it.

 

DOWNSIDES:

1. The task of the SEIAA is to undertake a ‘detailed scrutiny while this rating system stands to reduce the SEIAA to a ‘rubber stamps authority’ where their performance will be judged by the speed with which they give nod to projects. This might lead to environmental degradation and jeopardizing of community livelihoods.

2. It undermines the role of regulatory oversight in environmental protection, which is recognized in several Supreme Court verdicts as one of the key instruments to ensure the right to life. In the words of environmentalists, it is an arbitrary exercise of power to benefit only business at the cost of the environment and people.

3. The scheme might lead to unhealthy competition amongst states to clear the projects as early as possible which may in turn result in industries locating in states that offer environmental clearance quicker.”

4. The scheme gives lesser points to SEIAAS for seeking additional information more than once. This could lead to them granting clearances with inadequate data,. Also, seasonal changes which impact the biodiversity profile of a certain area might be altogether ignored.

 

CONCLUSION/ WAY FORWARD:

To maintain a balance between the ecology and the economy, development, and pollution, it is necessary to revamp the time taking stages in EIA as it has become a major obstacle in starting a business in India. The pandemic has created a situation where India needs ease of doing business more than ever. Hence, star-rating scheme can be justified from the economy point of view. But it is the state of the economy at large which has arrested the growth of business. Hence, it should not compromise with the basic objective behind the environmental clearance i.e. to ensure the least damage to the natural resources and incorporate suitable remedial measures right at the stage of project formulation.

The recent India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 highlighted concerns such as a decline in forest cover in the Northeast, degradation of natural forests, etc. Hence, our efforts must be fine tuned to rightly serve all the communities and social groups.

 “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” (Use such quotes in environment answers)