Skip to main content

Centre gives six months to deal with cases of environmental clearance violations (downtoearth,)

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has issued a notification, giving a six-month window period to project proponents, who have been operating without obtaining a prior environmental clearance (EC), to apply for the same. The notification, issued on March 14, clarifies that this opportunity can only be availed for projects or activities which are observed to be in violation till the date of the notification, thus, making this a one-time opportunity.

The Ministry says that the notification has been issued because it is “necessary to bring such projects and activities in compliance with the environmental laws at the earliest point of time, rather than leaving them unregulated and unchecked, which will be more damaging to the environment”. Thus, it is “essential” to grant EC to these projects with adequate safeguards to make them compliant.

What prompted such move?

The recent move comes in response to certain proposals that the ministry and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) have been receiving from project developers for issuing “Terms of References” (ToR) and EC for projects which have “started the work on site, expanded the production beyond the limit of environmental clearance or changed the product mix without obtaining prior environmental clearance”.

Moreover, a decision of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in July 2015 has prompted the government to take such step. The NGT, at that time, had quashed two office memoranda (dated December 12, 2012 and June 27, 2013) of the Union Environment Ministry that had laid down a process for granting EC to such cases of violation. Many project developers have been exploiting that. The tribunal considered those office memoranda to be “ultra vires”, because the granting of “ex post facto” EC frustrates the need of a prior EC as required under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.

Conditions of the latest notification for EC requirement and compliance

The latest notification lists a set of conditions that must be fulfilled by project developers for obtaining EC and for compliance of EC conditions.

The specifications that have been given for obtaining ECs include:

All applications of EC (for the violation cases), irrespective of their size and capacity, will only be appraised at the Central level by the respective sector-specific Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).
The EAC will first examine whether the project or activity is at all a permissible activity at the site on which it has come up. If not, then closure will be recommended.
If the EAC considers the site to be agreeable, then the EAC will prescribe “specific ToR” for assessment of ecological damage; and developing remediation plan and Natural and Community Resource Augmentation Plan (NCRAP). This will be in addition to general ToR required under EIA Notification (2006) for EIA study or development of Environment Management Plan (EMP).
The remediation plan and/or the NCRAP shall be prepared by accredited consultants and will be an independent chapter in the EIA report.
The collection and analysis of data for assessment of ecological damage, preparation of remediation plan and NCRAP shall be done by an environmental laboratory duly notified under the Environment (Protection) Act (1986)—E(P)Act, or an environmental laboratory accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories or the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The EAC shall stipulate the implementation of EMP, comprising remediation plan and NCRAP corresponding to the ecological damage assessed and economic benefit derived due to violation as a specific condition of EC.
Specifications to ensure compliance

Besides laying out conditions for obtaining EC, the notification also gives certain specifications in order to ensure compliance of EC conditions and implementation of the remediation plan and the NCRAP. The one that’s particularly important is with respect to furnishing of bank guarantee.

The project proponent will have “to submit a bank guarantee equivalent to the amount of remediation plan and NCRAP with the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB)”. According to Manoj Kumar Singh, joint secretary, MoEF&CC, the bank guarantee should compel the project developers to implement the remediation plan and the NCRAP in a timely manner, because by not doing so, the bank guarantee will be forfeited or its renewal every time will cost the developer considerable additional money.

The notification also clarifies that the SPCBs will be able to take action under Section 19 of the E(P) Act for violation. This essentially means that that SPCB can file a complaint report on violation of the project developers, on the basis of which they can be taken to court. The concerned SPCBs will also not issue any consent to operate or occupancy certificate till the project is granted EC by the Centre.

Future concerns

While ideally an EC should not be granted once project activities have started, by the virtue of the EIA Notification (2006), but if it is now allowed even through a limited window, the implementation of remedial measures and compliance of clearance conditions must be strictly monitored. Compliance is a major concern, given the already poor monitoring and compliance status of EC conditions.

A clear timeframe for implementation of the remediation and augmentation plans is crucial. Also, the government must ensure compliance by specifying monitoring intervals and detailed reporting on the same. In all cases of non-compliance or improper implementation of remedial plans, the project proponent must be held for serious offence and should be held liable for stiff penalty.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Cloud seeding

Demonstrating the function of the flare rack that carries silver iodide for cloud-seeding through an aircraft. 
Water is essential for life on the earth. Precipitation from the skies is the only source for it. India and the rest of Asia are dependent on the monsoons for rains. While the South West Monsoon is the main source for India as a whole, Tamil Nadu and coastal areas of South Andhra Pradesh get the benefit of the North East Monsoon, which is just a less dependable beat on the reversal of the South West Monsoon winds.

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…