The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has notified amendment to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Rules. The amendment exempts highway projects of strategic and defence importance, which are 100 km from the Line of Control, among other locations, from an environmental clearance before construction.
What is ‘Environment Clearance’?
- Environmental Clearance is mainly conducted for the assessment of the impacts of a project on the environment and people and also tries to reduce the impact of the project.
- In India, there are 39 categories of projects for which the environment clearance process is available.
About the ‘Environment Impact Assessment’ –
- Environment Impact Assessment or EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment.
- In 1994, for the first time under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the EIA notification was formulated in India.
- It made environmental clearance mandatory for expansion, modernisation and setting up of new projects.
- EIA systematically examines both beneficial and adverse consequences of the project and ensures that these effects are taken into account during project design.
Stages of EIA –
- The environmental clearance process comprises of four stages, namely, Screening; Scoping; Public Consultation and Appraisal.
- Screening —
- First stage of EIA, which determines whether the proposed project, requires an EIA and if it does, then the level of assessment required.
- Scoping —
- This stage identifies the key issues and impacts that should be further investigated.
- This stage also defines the boundary and time limit of the study.
- Public Consultation —
- Public Consultation refers to the process by which the concerns of local affected persons and others who have plausible stake in the environmental impacts of the project or activity are ascertained.
- Appraisal —
- Appraisal means the detailed scrutiny by the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee of the application and other documents submitted by the applicant for grant of environmental clearance.
Role of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) –
- The EAC is a multi-disciplinary sectoral appraisal committee comprising of various subject matter experts for appraisal of sector specific projects.
- It is a recommendatory body.
- Based on the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee, environmental clearance is accorded or rejected to the project by MoEF&CC.
- To decentralise the process of project clearance, the EIA Notification, 2006 has categorised the projects into two categories namely — Category ‘A’ and Category ‘B’ based on their impact potential.
- Category ‘A’ projects will be appraised at the Central level while Category ‘B’ project at the State level.
- Category A projects require mandatory environmental clearance and thus they do not have to undergo the screening process.
- Category B projects undergo a screening process and are further classified into B1 (Mandatorily requiring EIA) and B2 (Not requiring EIA).
Other amendments –
Amendments include with respect to —
- Projects of strategic importance — The notification deems it necessary to exempt projects of strategic importance (for e.g. Building highways near border areas) from the requirement of environment clearance, subject to specified Standard Operating Procedure along with standard environmental safeguards for such projects.
- Thermal power plants — As long as the fuel-mix is eco-friendly, thermal power plants up to 15 MW based on biomass or non-hazardous municipal solid waste using auxiliary fuel such as coal, lignite or petroleum products up to 15 per cent have been exempted.
- Ports — Taking into account issues of livelihood security of fishermen involved at fish handling ports and harbours, and the less pollution potential of these ports and harbours compared to others, increasing the threshold of ports which exclusively deals in fish handling, and caters to small fishermen, will be exempted from environmental clearance.
- Toll plazas — Toll plazas that need more width for installation of toll collection booths to cater to a large number of vehicles are exempted.
- Airport terminals — Expansion activities in existing airports related to terminal building expansion without increase in the airport’s existing area, rather than expansion of runways, are also exempted.