The world is becoming more aware of climate change and its dangers. As a result, some changes have been made to laws across the world. These changes emerged because of the need to protect Earth from harmful consequences. For instance, global warming, ozone depletion, and deforestation. One way to do so is mandating environmental due diligence for companies. Companies must perform this before setting up any unit that might harm the environment. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the formal term for this due diligence.
Environmental Impact Assessment in India
On 27th January 1994, the EIA Regulations came into force for the first time.
They made it mandatory for specified projects to conduct an EIA. Such projects need prior environmental clearance. Before initiation, they must submit their report to the Impact Assessment Agency.
The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provided for these regulations.
The primary aim of EIA is to assess the potential impact of a project on the environment. This provides time for taking measures to curb these environmental impacts.
First of all, the project unit must make a self-assessment report. A review by the regulatory agency is the next step. The final stage is approval by the agency.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) acts as an Impact Assessment Agency. It usually consults a Committee of Experts set up for this purpose.
2006 Amendment to EIA Process
Three major changes took place through the 2006 amendment.
- Decentralization of regulatory functions through State Level Environment Impact Assessment Agencies (SEIAAs). SEIAAs oversee smaller scale Category B projects. MoEF continues to regulate larger scale Category A projects.
- MoEF or SEIAA give the final approval for any project. However, they need to base their approval on the recommendations of State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) and Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC). These are bodies of experts that review the impact assessment made by regulatory authorities.
- The State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or the Union Territory Pollution Control Committee (UTPCC) conduct a public hearing. This takes the responsibility of such hearing away from the project proponents. Public hearing is a platform where public can express and record their project grievances.
The aim of these changes was to make the appraisal process simple and transparent, without any political purpose.
Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure Step-By-Step
Following are the steps for conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment.
- Submit an application to the project authority. Send relevant documents to the MoEF or SEIAAs, depending on the project category.
- The technical staff of MoEF/SEIAA will examine the application. After this, the application goes to the Central/state Environmental Appraisal Committee.
- Appraisal Committees test the impact of the project on the surrounding environment. Both short and long term effects form part of the test. Appraisal committees also go for site visits if necessary.
- After this test, Appraisal Committees recommend for accepting or rejecting the proposal. MoEF processes these recommendations and makes the final decision.
- Site-specific projects need two types of clearance. Projects like Mining, River Valley, Ports and Harbours are site-specific. Project units must obtain site clearance before applying for environmental clearance. This is to protect areas that are fragile and sensitive in respect of ecology and environment. For example, coastal zones and protected forests.
Environmental Public Hearings (EPH)
This step is compulsory to get environmental clearance for Category “A” and “B1” projects. This allows people of affected areas to express any concerns about the project.
Public hearing takes place after the project unit completes the draft report. State Pollution Control Board finalizes the time, date and place of public hearing. These details must be confirmed within 7 days of the receipt of draft EIA report.
District Collector is the Chairperson of the EPH committee. The committee hears suggestions/objections from the public. Representatives of the Pollution Control Board(PCB) record any concerns expressed.
This makes setting up of large projects more inclusive of local people.
Further, this makes project units and regulatory authorities answerable to the public.
For more details you can visit the Environment Clearance Portal.
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