India - Environment Impact Assessment

By Kalpana Palkhiwala
Deputy Director, Press Information Bureau, New Delhi

New Delhi, Oct 6, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) The National Environment Policy, 2006 recognises environmental protection as an integral part of the development process and mainstreams environmental concerns in all developmental activities. The dominant theme of this policy is that while conservation of environmental resources is necessary to secure livelihoods and well being of all, the most secure basis for conservation is to ensure that people dependent on particular resources obtain better livelihoods from conservation rather than from degradation of resources. The policy seeks to stimulate partnership of different stakeholders in harnessing their respective resources and strength for environmental management.


The Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 requires developmental projects, activities, processes, listed therein to obtain prior environmental clearance under the provisions.

Legislative Framework

The present legislative framework for protection of environment is broadly contained in the umbrella Environment Protection Act 1986; the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; the Water Cess Act, 1977; and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The law in respect of management of forests and biodiversity is contained in the Indian Forest Act, 1927; the Forest Conservation Act 1980; the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972; and the Bio Diversity Act, 2002. There are several other enactments, which complements the provisions of this basic enactment.

Proper Enforcement of Environment Through Policy

Weakness in the enforcement of environmental compliance is attributed to inadequate technical capacities, monitoring infrastructure, and trained staff in enforcement institutions. In addition, there is insufficient involvement of the potentially impacted local communities in the monitoring of compliance, and absences of institutionalized public private partnerships in enhancement of monitoring infrastructures.

Measures taken, including capacity development initiatives to enable Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies to undertake monitoring of compliance with environmental management plans, municipalities will be encouraged to report their environmental performance to their governing bodies annually; feasible models of public partnerships will be developed to leverage financial, technical, and management resources of the private sector in setting up and operating infrastructure for monitoring .

Notification, 2006

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 regulates developmental projects in different parts of the country and their expansion/ modernization activities. It mandates prior environmental clearance to be obtained for the project listed in its schedule- The Ministry of Environment and Forests has notified this EIA Notification under the powers conferred by sub-section (1) and clause (v) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, read with clause (d) of sub-rule(3) or rule 5 of the Environment (protection ) Rules, 1986.

Prior environmental clearance shall be obtained under the provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006 for the activities covered under the provisions there of before starting any construction work, or preparation of land by the project management except for securing the land, on the project or activity.

Stages

Environmental Clearance under EIA Notification, 2006 comprises of four stages. Screening , Scoping, Public Consultation and Appraisal.

Projects

The Projects which require prior environment clearance broadly include Hydroelectric Projects, Thermal Power Projects, Nuclear Power Project, Mining Projects both coal and non coal, Airports, Roads and Highways, Ports and Harbours and various Industrial Projects such as cement plant, Pulp and paper, metallurgical industries etc.

The Central Government in the Ministry of Environment and Forests is the regulatory authority for category ‘A’ projects while the States /UT level Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) are the regulatory authority for the their respective State/UT for category ‘B’ projects. Twenty two State/UT Level Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) covering 23 States/UT have been notified so far, these include; West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh , Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Daman and Diu.

Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)

The EACs are multi disciplinary sectoral expert committees comprising of various subject experts and are constituted are per the EIA notification of 2006, for appraisal of sector specific projects. EAC is the recommendatory body.

Steps for Early Decision

After issuance of EIA Notification, 2006, there has been large influx of project for environmental appraisal. For facilitating an early decision various steps have been initiated which include: continuous monitoring of the status of the pending projects, longer duration of Expert Appraisal Committee Meeting for consideration of the larger number of projects and Streamlining of the procedure etc. and uploading of project status on website for putting project status for public domain.

E C Time Schedule

EIA notification, 2009 prescribes a time limit for environmental clearance of 105 days (sixty days for appraisal by the EAC and 45 days for processing and communicating the decision thereon).

The EIA Notification of 2006 has been amended in December,2009 for further streamlining the procedure.