Context: To address the unprecedented situation arising from the global outbreak of COVID-19, and to ramp up availability or production of various drugs, the Ministry of Environment,Forest and Climate Change has made an amendment to EIA Notification 2006.
Changes made in the EIA Notification,2006:
- All projects or activities in respect of bulk drugs and intermediates, manufactured for addressing various ailments, have been re-categorized from the existing Category ‘A’ to ‘B2’ category.
- Projects falling under Category B2 are exempted from requirement of collection of Baseline data, EIA Studies and public consultation.
- To ensure expeditious disposal of the proposals within a given time-line, the Ministry has also advised states to use information technology e.g. video conference, considering the fact that in view of the prevailing situation on ground, appraisal of proposals may not be possible through physical meetings.
What impacts will it have?
The re-categorization of such proposals has been done to facilitate
- Decentralization of appraisal to State Level so as to fast track the process.
- This step of the Government is with a view to help in increasing the availability of the important medicines/drugs in the country within a short span of time.
- This amendment is applicable to all proposals received and the states have also been issued advisories to expeditiously process such proposals.
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Environmental Impact Assessment
UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making.
- It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
- Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.
The need for EIA:
- Development projects have negative externalities too. Every anthropogenic activity has some impact on the environment more often it has a negative impact on the environment than positive.that is why there is a need to harmonize development activities with environmental concerns.
- The EIA process also serves an important procedural role in the overall decision-making process by promoting transparency and public involvement.
The objective of EIA:
- To identify, predict and evaluate the economic, environmental and social impact of development activities
- To provide information on the environmental consequences for decision making and
Benefits of EIA:
- Proposes modified designs to reduce environmental impacts
- Identifies feasible alternatives
- Predicts significant adverse impacts
- Other benefits - Environmental assessment has many benefits, such as protection of the environment, optimum utilization of resources and saving of time and cost of the project.
- Identifies mitigation measures to reduce, offset, or eliminate major impacts
- Engages and informs potentially affected communities and individuals
- Influences decision-making and the development of terms and conditions.
- Promoting community participation - Properly conducted EIA also lessens conflicts by promoting community participation, informing decision-makers, and helping lay the base for environmentally sound projects.
Guiding principles of EIA:
Environment Impact Act(EIA) Notification, 2006:
Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006 has decentralized the environmental clearance projects by categorizing the developmental projects in two categories.
- The notification makes it mandatory for various projects such as mining, thermal power plants, river valley, infrastructure (road, highway, ports, harbors, and airports) and industries including very small electroplating or foundry units to get environment clearance.
- However, unlike the EIA Notification of 1994, the 2006 legislation has put the onus of clearing projects on the state government depending on the size/capacity of the project.
- Certain exemptions are - Environmental clearance for built-up areas from 1,50,000 to 3,00,000 sq. mtr. will be given by the State Level Authorities subject to EIA while the areas above 3,00,000 sq. mtr. will be approved and cleared by the Union Government.
- Category A projects require mandatory environmental clearance and are appraised at national level by Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) and the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).
- Category B projects are apprised at state level. State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) are constituted to provide clearance to the Category B process.
They undergo a screening process and they are classified into two categories.
- Category B1 projects that are mandatory require EIA.
- Category B2 projects that do not require EIA.
The process of EIA:
- Screening: The project plan is screened for scale of investment, location and type of development and if the project needs statutory clearance.
- Scoping: The project’s potential impacts, zone of impacts, mitigation possibilities and need for monitoring.
- Public hearing: On completion of the EIA report, public and environmental groups living close to the project site may be informed and consulted.
- Decision making: Impact Assessment Authority along with the experts consult the project-in-charge along with the consultant to take the final decision, keeping in mind EIA and EMP (Environment Management Plan).
- Monitoring and implementation of environmental management plan: The various phases of implementation of the project are monitored.