ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN INDIA
ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN INDIA
- Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process of ascertaining possible consequences of a project on environment in future. In 1978-79, the EIA was introduced for river valley projects.
- At present, the EIA is mandatory under Environment Protection Act, 1986 for 29 categories of projects with the investment of Rs. 50 crore or more.
Need for EIA
- Earlier, projects were scrutinised/assessed on economic and social criteria only.
- The EIA refers to the assessment of possible economic consequences arising in future due to a particular project.
- Social Impact Assessment (SIA) refers to the assessment of possible social consequences (or consequences on the lives of people) arising in future due to a particular project.
- Concerns over environment have led to the emergence of ETA, i.e., possible consequences of a project on environment.
EIA in India
The MoEFCC, Government of India (GOI) is responsible for undertaking EIA of various types of projects.
The MoEFCC has constituted expert committees for appraisal of various types of projects. These expert committees have been constituted sector-wise as mentioned below:
- Mining projects
- Thermal power plants
- River valley, etc.
Environmental Appraisal Procedure
- The MoEFCC has issued an EIA notification which prescribes the documents required and the procedure to file an application.
- The applicant interested in a project submits the required documents to the technical staff of MoEFCC.
- After getting an approval of documents from the technical staff, the documents are placed before a particular environmental appraisal committee.
- The committee evaluates the impact of the project based on the data furnished in the documents and if necessary, undertakes on-site inspections.
- Based on the appraisal, the committee makes a recommendation for acceptance or rejection of the project.
- In case of site-specific projects such as mining, river valley, etc., two-stage clearances are required. The first stage clearance is site clearance.
- The site clearance assesses whether the project site can withstand environmental consequences.
- The second stage assesses the impact of the particular project on that site.
- Usually, the MoEFCC decides on an application within a period of 90 days.
Monitoring of Projects
- Once a project has been cleared, it is monitored by six regional offices of MoEFCC located throughout
- India. ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN INDIA
- The objective of monitoring projects is to ensure that the safeguards which were stipulated while approving the project are continuously followed and if required, mid-course corrections are undertaken.
The procedure adopted for the monitoring of projects is as follows:
- The person undertaking the project is required to report every six months on fulfillment of the conditions which were laid while approving the project.
- Field visits are made by officials from regional offices to collect data about its actual performance.
- In case of substantial deviation from conditions, matter is referred to the respective state government which may even cancel the approval of the project, levy heavy penalty or may even specify new conditions.
Challenges in EIA
- Environmental clearance is seen as a hurdle in the path of economic development.
- As a result, MoEFCC is pressurised by other ministries to issue environmental clearances.
- The MoEFCC officials sometimes take bribes to give approvals.
- The MoEFCC lacks staff and resources to ascertain the detailed environmental impact of projects.
Steps to Improve the Quality of EIA in India
- Environmental Appraisal Committees should be given autonomy by the MoEFCC. At present, Environmental Appraisal Committees are under MoEFCC.
- Union Ministries may pressurise the MoEFCC for approval of projects to carry out faster economic development. The MoEFCC may further pressurise Environmental Appraisal Committees.
- The reports filed by the applicants for the approval of a project are used to assess the impact of the project on environment. Environmental Appraisal Committees do not possess self-owned assessment facility.
- At present, adequate long-term impact assessment of project is not carried out. Emphasis is given for short-term impact assessment only. ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT IN INDIA