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 for which the environment clearance process is available.
Process of Environmental Clearances in India: The process of environmental clearances is shown in the diagram: What is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): A study to evaluate and predict environmental impacts and the best match of the economic and environmental cost of the project. The EIA is conducted by the project proponent and independent agencies like TERI, NEERI, and NCAER, etc.
Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) for Environmental Clearance has four stages:
- Screening: It is meant for Category B type projects and a state-level expert appraisal committee identifies project category.
- Scoping: it is meant for category A and B1 type projects and here the central Expert Appraisal Committee for A and SLEAC for B1 would identify terms of reference for the preparation of EIA Report.
- Public Hearing: it is available for category A and B1 type projects conducted by public hearing committee with District Collector as a chairperson, officials of SPCB and representatives of Gram Sabha to address the objection or suggestions of the public before the draft of EIA report
- Appraisal: finally the EAC and SLEAC scrutinize and finalize the report, NOCs and present it before the ministry for the clearance.
However, some projects which are located in any of the following listed below would require environmental clearance irrespective of the type of project.
- Biosphere reserves
- National parks and sanctuaries
- National lakes and swamps
- Seismic zones
- Tribal settlements
- Areas of scientific and geological interest
- Religious and historic places
- Archaeological monuments
- Scenic areas
- Hill resorts
- Beach resorts
- Gulf areas
- Border areas (international)
- Defense installations, especially those of security importance and sensitive to pollution
- Coastal areas are rich in mangroves, corals, breeding grounds of specific species.
Concerns and Challenges in India:
- Role of the public in India in the environment clearance process is limited. Public consultation happens at a very late stage when the EIA report is already prepared and ready for clearance which means that EIA is unable to address the issues which are important to the public.
- Awareness and Unavailability of EIA in local languages: it is also a concern in the process of the environment clearance process at the public hearing stage.
- Sometimes the issues raised by the public are ignored.
- Misleading EIA Reports- sometimes the reports lacks honesty owing to corruption. Sometimes the agencies lift the information from other sources presenting contradictory and outdated information and there is no punishment for such.
- Screening and scoping is not well defined.
- Insufficient EIA Reports- the project proponents or the agencies prepare incomplete EIA reports ignoring the true and exact situation of the area.
- Poor Quality of EIA Professionals- sometimes the proponents themselves conduct EIA and hire local and untrained professionals to save cost and their other interest. This results in the poor quality of EIA reports.
- Transparency and accountability in making of EIA reports and the Screening and scoping should be well defined.
- Trained Professionals should be recruited to ensure the quality of the EIA report.
- Penalizing the violators for misusing the authorities for their own interest.
- There should be a check between standards of environment and above all stages.
- There must be observance between standards of environment and all the above stages of this project.
Conclusion: As the planet is facing climate change and other environmental issues we cannot put our planet on stake for own interests. So once the assessments get completed, the finding of the report should be communicated to all stakeholders for suggestions to minimize the loss to the environment. A proper assessment report then further goes to the government and it is now up to one government to give clearance or not. The stakeholders can also mold the project that its harms can be minimized and the benefits can be maximized.
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