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Govt eases more environmental rules, makes project execution easier

In relief to developers, ministry bars appraisal panel from commissioning any additional studies on a project

Somesh Jha  |  New Delhi 

The Union environment ministry has barred its Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) commissioning any additional impact assessment studies.

According to the revised norms, the EAC, which recommends projects for environment clearance, cannot ask a developer for additional environmental studies while appraising a proposal.

Environmental studies are needed for every project. These are supposed to take into account all concerns, the basis for granting a green nod.

“It has been brought to the notice of this ministry that sometimes the EACs during the appraisal process revisit the issue of the site and/or seek additional studies on issues not part of the terms of references (TORs). This, besides delaying the whole process, goes against the spirit of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006,” said the order dated October 7.

According to EIA Notification 2006, a project has to go through several stages before environment clearance is granted. The first stage involves screening, which determines if a project requires further environmental studies for preparation of an EIA, after the developer sends the relevant information for setting up a factory or whatever. Then, the EAC recommends TOR for preparation of EIA (termed 'scoping').

Once this is done, public consultation with locally affected persons takes place and then the project is appraised by the committee. During the appraisal, the final EIA report and outcome of public consultation becomes the basis for a recommendation on the project.

There have been several instances where the EAC has received apprehensions related to the natural resources surrounding the project and during appraisal, has sent back the proposal, seeking more details on how the project proponent plans to deal with it.

For instance, the EAC had sought additional information for Reliance Power's Sasan ultra mega project expansion before granting clearance for the Chhatrasal block. It had asked Reliance for more information on issues such as land use pattern.

The ministry has now ordered the EAC to look into all these concerns at the time of the initial stages only (while granting TOR) and “ensure that no fresh issues are raised (during appraisal) unless it turns out that the information provided by the project proponent at the time of scoping was wrong and misleading”.

It has also stated that in rare cases, where seeking additional information beyond TORs becomes “inevitable”, the EAC should completely justify this move, besides getting additional studies conducted in a timebound manner.

Land rules breather
And, the government has in a move allowed project proponents to give proof of initiation of land acquisition instead of going for full acquisition. At present, an industrialist has to give documents reflecting full land acquisition before the project is considered for environment clearance (EC). Industries will now have to only file documents showing initiation of the acquisition.

According to the order, a developer needs to file a copy of the preliminary notification on land acquisition issued by the state government concerned if the land parcel is taken through government intervention. If parcel is obtained through a private entity, a “document showing the intent of the land owners to sell the land” would be the only requirement.

  • No additional green studies
  • Union environment ministry orders its expert appraisal committee (EAC) to not ask for additional reports while clearing projects
  • Developers give environment impact assessment (EIA) report for green clearance
  • While appraising the project, EAC often asks developers to give additional studies
  • Land rules have been eased
  • Industries allowed to give initial evidence of land acquisition during the environment clearance process
  • Industries need to give documents showing initial land acquisition
  • At present, industrialists have to fully acquire land for clearance consideration

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First Published: Sat, October 11 2014. 21:28 IST