The Environment Ministry has granted a six-month window as one-time opportunity to secure environmental clearance to units which have not obtained such a nod earlier. "This is a one-time opportunity for six months to apply for environmental clearance to units which are in violation on date of the notification which came out on March 14 this year.
States or State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) will take action under Section 19 of the E (P) Act, 1986 for violation," the ministry said. Elaborating on the issue, Environment Ministry said that it and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) have been receiving proposals under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 for grant of Terms of Reference (ToR) and Environmental Clearance (EC). The proposals were 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 EC. The ministry had issued Office Memoranda (OM) dated in 2012 and 2013 and laid down a process for grant of EC to such cases of violation. However, Jharkhand High Court had passed an order declaring some of the provisions of said OM of 2012 void and had further held that action for alleged violation would be an independent and separate activity. Subsequently the two OMs were quashed by the NGT mainly on the ground that the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 provides for prior environmental clearance, which is why no procedure can be laid through OMs for post- environment clearance. "In view of the above, the ministry issued the notification on March 14 this year 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. "As such units are more polluting if they are not brought under the environment compliance regime, but the process for such violators has to be stringent and punitive," the ministry said. Elaborating on other features, the ministry said all the cases of violation, irrespective of category, will be appraised as category 'A' projects by respective sector Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) at Central level so that the violations can only be appraised at the level of ministry. "The EAC will first examine the proposal with an angle that the project or activity is a permissible activity at the site on which it has come up. If it is not then the recommendation of EAC will be for closure. "Respective EAC will prescribe the specific ToR for assessment of ecological damage, Remediation Plan and Natural and Community Resource Augmentation Plan (NCRAP) in addition to general ToR required under EIA Notification, 2006 for undertaking EIA/EMP," it said. The ministry said the idea behind this is to "take away" the economic benefit derived by the company due to violation and pay for the remediation of damage caused due to violation. "No consent to operate or occupancy certificate will be issued till the project is granted the EC," it said.
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