Mid Elections, Environment Ministry Issues Notification Diluting Process To Grant Green Clearances For Projects
A “Zero Draft of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2019” was released as an Office Memorandum of the Environment Ministry on the April of 15th, reported Hindustan Times. If approved as the final notification, it will dilute the various requisite green norms and make it easier for projects to attain green clearances.
The ministry, however, justified it by saying, “The principal notification has undergone substantial changes over the years, the ministry has decided to re-engineer the entire notification in line with the amendments issued, office memorandums (OMs) and circulars issued from time to time and the experience gained over the years in the implementation of EIA notification.”
It is being argued that some of the aspects of the draft were amendments proposed by the government before and were halted by Legal Challenges due to their impact on Environmental Regulation. Now, these disputed clauses have now found a new voice in the 2019 draft notification.
As of now, in the meantime, the 2006 EIA Notification is still in effect. It governs green clearance for all kinds of projects from mining, infrastructure, thermal, hydro, irrigation and industries.
What powers does the Draft Notification Grant?
According to Hindustan Times Report,
- The draft notification 2019 gives authority to the District level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA), headed by the district magistrate or district collector, to appraise district-level projects, grant or reject environmental clearance. DEIAA according to this draft also has extensive powers, at par with the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and the state-level expert appraisal committee.
- Environmental clearances can be transferred during their validity and that projects can also be split and transferred with approval from the EAC.
- Online Approval for the expansion of all projects up to 50% of the existing capacity in various sectors will also be exempted from any kind of public consultation. The draft also provides for clearance to various projects -highway projects in border areas, expansion of existing highways and expansion of existing industrial projects with no additional acquisition of land – without environment appraisals. Besides, projects of “strategic considerations” will also be exempted from the public hearing.
- The draft empowers local bodies such as municipalities, urban development authorities and district panchayats the authority to grant building permits for building or construction projects with a built-up area of more than 20,000 sq metres and less than 50,000 sq metres. The environment ministry introduced this clause through a draft notification in March 2018 but it was challenged on environmental grounds and later stayed by the Delhi high court.
Seen as a bid to ensure ease of doing business for those with deep pockets, this draft now sits on the tables of state secretaries waiting for their comments. If passed they can significantly change how infrastructure projects in the country attain green clearances.
Read the full article here: Hindustan Times