After reading this article you will learn about the procedure for environmental clearance.
Environmental Clearance on the basis of environmental impact assessment is mandatory for various development projects in most parts of the world today. In India, this was introduced as an administrative measure in 1978-79 initially for river valley projects and extended later to industrial projects.
Environmental Clearance for 29 categories of projects (Annex-A) was made mandatory by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification issued in January 1994 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Certain activities permissible under the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 1991 also require clearance.
Environmental clearance is granted by the Impact Assessment Agency in the Ministry of Environment and Forests. This power has been delegated to the State Governments in the case of co-generation power plants of any capacity, gas/ naphtha based and coal based power plants with fluidized bed technology of up to 500 MW capacity and conventional coal based power plants of up to 250 MW capacity except when located within 25 km of the boundary of reserved forests, biosphere reserves and critically polluted areas or within 50 km of inter-state boundary.
In the case of projects within (the existing port limits except areas classified as CRZI, the power to grant clearance under the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification has been delegated to the Ministry of Surface Transport.
The EIA Notification provides for two stage clearance for site specific projects like mining including prospecting, pit-head thermal power plants, river valley projects and ports and harbors. Site clearance is given in the first stage and the final environmental clearance in the second stage.
This provision for two stage clearance has been made to help project proponents who would not have to spend funds on detailed impact assessment studies, etc. if the site is not cleared. If, however, a project proponent decides to take this risk and completes all the studies and the requisite procedures, The Impact Assessment Agency would have no objection to combining the two stages into one.
In 1985 the Government had published (though not formally accepted) a set of guidelines, recommended by a working group, for siting various development projects including industries, power plants and mining. Since then advances have been made in technology as well as man’s understanding of the factors which affect environment.
Hence these old guidelines have been reviewed afresh and rules are being notified for siting of specified industries. It has been decided that there is no need to have such rules for mining and power projects, which would be considered on merit in each case. The Environment siting of Industrial Projects Rules to be notified shortly will be applicable to specified polluting industries.
In addition Government notifies, from time to time certain areas in the country as ecologically sensitive and developmental activities to be taken up in these areas are regulated as per the provisions of these notifications.
Such areas include coastal regulation zone. Doon valley, Murud- Janjira, Dahanu Taluka, Numaligarh, Taj trapezium and Aravalli ranges in Gurgaon (Haryana) and Alwar (Rajasthan) districts. Activities to be taken up in forest areas are governed by Forest (Conservation) Act and Wild Life Protection Act.
The First step to take on the way to obtaining environmental clearance for development project is to get an Environmental Impact Assessment report prepared by a competent team. The chances of getting environmental clearance for a project expeditiously depend largely on the quality of the EIA report.
In several cases, it has been noticed that environmental clearance has been delayed because EIA report was of poor quality. Wherever necessary, officials of the Impact Assessment Agency will be available to guide project proponents on preparing the EIA report and listing oil the documents to be submitted while applying for environmental clearance.
It is important that the EIA report should have data, which are adequate for identification prediction and evaluation, in the case of projects having impact on air quality, one full season (other than the monsoon season) baseline data is normally adequate for establishing the current status of environment in the project area.
Hydro-geological report is required where the project requires drawl of large quantity of ground water or storage of water or deep digging for mining, etc. Bio-diversity study/wildlife study may be required in the case of projects having impact on the flora and/or fauna over a large area.
Rehabilitation and resettlement plan should be very important in the EIA report of any project that is likely to displace people from their homestead and/ or farmlands.
Similarly, a detailed risk analysis should be added to the EIA report in the case of projects such as chemical plants and thermal power plants. For mining projects, approval for the mining plan should be obtained from the competent authority—Ministry of Coal for coal and lignite and the Indian Bureau of Mines for other major minerals.
All applications for clearance under the Coastal Regulation Zone notification should be accompanied by a site plan showing demarcation of low tide line an high tide line done by one of the following authorised agencies:
1. Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad
2. Centre for Earth Sciences Studies, Thiruvananthapuram
3. Institute of Remote Sensing, Anna University, Chennai
4. Naval Hydrography’s Office, Dehra Dun
5. National Institute of Oceanography, Panaji, Goa
Applications for environmental clearance in the case of projects in CRZ and mining projects are to be routed through the State Government. In all other cases (except where the power has been delegated to the State Government or the Ministry of Surface Transport), the application is to be submitted directly to the Impact Assessment Agency.
The application should be accompanied by the following documents:
1. Feasibility Report
2. Site clearance for site specific projects mentioned in EIA Notification
3. EIA and RMP Reports
4. No Objection Certificate from SPCBs and other local authorities
5. Duly Filled in Environmental Appraisal Questionnaire
6. Risk Analysis and Emergency preparedness Plan, in case of projects involving hazardous substances
7. Rehabilitation Plan where displacement of people is anticipated
8. Clearance from Airports Authority of India, if applicable
9. Details of Public Hearing conducted by the concerned State
Pollution Control Board:
An amendment to the EIA Notification introduced in April 2007 has made public hearing mandatory for all the cases where the environmental clearance is required. It is, however, not needed for site clearance or permission to conduct surveys.
The public hearing is to be organised by the State Pollution Control Board who will take steps to constitute a public hearing panel for each case and also publish a notice, at the cost of the project proponent, for the public hearing in at least two local newspapers including one in the local language. Public hearing is conducted not less than 30 days after the publication of this notice.
During this period, all relevant document shall be kept available for public inspection at a designated place such as the Collectorate or SPCB office. The project proponent is required to give clarifications or answer queries at the public hearing.
The stress at the public hearing should be public on the environmental aspects rather than employment opportunities and other benefits to the local people. The report of the public hearing panel is to be attached to the application for environmental clearance.
The application for environmental clearance, when received in the Impact Assessment Agency directly or through the State Government, will be scrutinized initially to see whether all documents and information required have been furnished.
If any document or information is wanting, the project proponent will be informed. Sometimes project proponents or other authorities like the state government fail to respond to requests for additional information, documents or reports in-spite of reminders causing delay in the processing of environmental clearance.
In the event of an application being found complete in every respect, it will be examined on merit and if need be, referred to the Expert Advisory Committee(s) constituted for five sectors, namely:
(ii) Thermal Power Plants,
(iv) River Valley Projects, and
(v) Infrastructure Projects and CRZ.
These Committees are chaired by non-officials and comprise of experts in various fields and representatives of non-government organisations. The project proponent will be required to make a presentation before the Committee and answer questions. If felt necessary, the Committee may ask for additional information or decide on a site visit.
Preparation of EIA should start along with the preparation of the feasibility report. If the requirement of EIA are built into the feasibility report. The project proponent’s task becomes easier while approaching financial institutions as well as impact assessment agency.
All efforts should be made to integrate environmental concerns into the project from the conceptual stage itself. This can be achieved by collecting data required for feasibility report along with the data for EIA.
Ministry Of Environment and Forests Notification:
S.O. 60(E) Whereas a notification under clause (a) of sub-rule (3) of Rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 inviting objections from the public within sixty days from the date of publication of the said notification, against the intention of the Central Government to impose restrictions and prohibitions on the expansion and modernisation of any activity or new projects being undertaken in any part of India unless environmental clearance has been accorded by the Central Government or the State Government in accordance with the procedure specified in that notification was published as S.O. No. 80(E) dated 28th January, 1993:
And whereas all objections received have been duly considered.
Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) and clause (v) of subsection (2) of section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986) read with clause (d) of sub-rule (3) of Rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, the Central Government hereby directs that on and from the date of publication of this notification in the Official Gazette, expansion or modernisation of any activity if pollution load is to exceed the existing one, or new project listed in Schedule I to this notification, shall not be undertaken in any part of India unless it has been accorded environmental clearance by the Central Government in accordance with the procedure hereinafter specified in this notification.
Two requirements and procedure for seeking environmental clearance of projects.
(a) Any person who desires to undertake any new project in any part of India or the expansion or the modernisation of any existing industry or project listed in the Schedule I shall submit an application to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi.
The application shall be made in the proforma specified in Schedule-II of this notification and shall be accompanied by a project report which shall, inter alia, include an Environmental Impact Assessment Report, an Environment Management Plan and details of public hearing as specified in Schedule-IV prepared in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Central Government in the Ministry of Environment and Forests from time to time.
(b) Cases rejected due to submission of insufficient or inadequate data and Plans may be reviewed as and when submitted with complete data and Plans. Submission of incomplete data or plans for the second time would itself be a sufficient reason for the Impact Assessment Agency to reject the case summarily.
(c) II case to the following site specific projects
(ii) pit-head thermal power stations,
(iii) hydro-power, major irrigation projects and/or their combination including flood control;
(iv) ports and harbours (excluding minor ports):
(v) prospecting and exploration of major minerals in areas above 500 hectares;
The project authorities will intimate the location of the project site to the Central Government in the Ministry of Environment and Forests while initiating any investigation and surveys. The Central Government in the Ministry of Environment and Forests will convey a decision regarding suitability or otherwise of the proposed site within a maximum period of thirty days. The said site clearance shall be granted for a sanctioned capacity and shall be valid for period of five years for commencing the construction, operation or mining.
(a) The reports submitted with the application shall be evaluated and assessed by the Impact Assessment Agency, and if deemed necessary it may consult a committee of Experts, having a composition as specified in Schedule-Ill of this Notification. The Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) would be the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The Committee of experts mentioned above shall be constituted by the Impact Assessment Agency or such other body under the Central Government authorised by the Impact Assessment Agency in this regard.
(b) The said Committee of Experts shall have full right of entry and inspection of the site or, as the case may be, factory premises at any time prior to, during or after the commencement of the operations relating to the project.
(c) The Impact Assessment Agency shall prepare a set of recommendations based on technical assessment of documents and data, furnished by the project authorities, supplemented by data collected during visits to sites or factories if undertaken, and details of public hearing.
The assessment shall be completed within a period of ninety days from receipt of the requisite documents and data from the project authorities and completion of public hearing and decision conveyed within thirty days thereafter.
The clearance granted shall be valid for a period of five years from commencement of the construction or operation of the project.
III A No construction work, preliminary or otherwise, relating to the setting up of the project may be undertaken till the environmental and site clearance is obtained.
IV In order to enable the Impact Assessment Agency to monitor effectively the implementation of the recommendations and conditions subject to which the permission is granted.
Subsequently on 14th Sept 2006, the revised Gazette notification was made as per provision of National Environment Policy 2006. Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) was created by the central Government in consultation with the State Government at each States and Union territories. In addition, the procedures along with jurisdiction of environmental clearance was also modified substantially.