Table of Contents
- Development projects in the past were undertaken without any consideration to their environmental consequences. As a result the whole environment got polluted and degraded.
- In view of the colossal damage to the environment, governments and public are now concerned about the environmental impacts of developmental activities. So, to assess the environmental impacts, the mechanism of EIA was introduced.
- EIA is a tool to anticipate the likely environmental impacts that may arise out of the proposed developmental activities and suggest mitigation measures and strategies.
- EIA was introduced in India in 1978, with respect to river valley projects. Later the EIA legislation was enhanced to include other developmental sections since 1941.
- EIA comes under Notification on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of developmental projects 1994 under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- Besides EIA, the Government of India under Environment (Protection) Act 1986 issued a number of other notifications, which are related to environmental impact assessment.
- EIA is now mandatory for 30 categories of projects, and these projects get Environmental Clearance (EC) only after the EIA requirements are fulfilled.
- Environmental clearance or the ‘go ahead’ signal is granted by the Impact Assessment Agency in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
All projects that require clearance from central government can be broadly categorized into the following
- Thermal power plants
- River valley projects
- Infrastructure and CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone)
- Nuclear power projects.
Individual projects that need require clearance from central government
- Nuclear power and related projects such as heavy water plants, nuclear fuel complex, rare earths.
- River valley projects including hydel power, major irrigation and their combination including flood control.
- Ports, harbours, airports (except minor ports and harbours).
- Petroleum refineries including crude and product pipelines.
- Chemical fertilizers (nitrogenous and phosphatic other than single superphosphate).
- Pesticides (technical).
- Petrochemical complexes (both olefinic and aromatic) and petrochemical intermediates such as DMT, Caprolactam, LAB etc., and production of basic plastics such as LDPE, HDPE, PP, PVC.
- Bulk drugs and pharmaceuticals
- Exploration for oil and gas and their production, transportation and storage
- Synthetic rubber
- Asbestos and asbestos products
- Hydrocyanic acid and its derivatives
- Primary metallurgical industries (such as production of iron and steel, aluminium, copper, zinc, lead, and ferro-alloys)
- Chlor alkali industry
- Integrated paint complex including manufacture of resins and basic raw materials required in the manufacture of paints
- Viscose staple fibre and filament yarn
- Storage batteries integrated with manufacture of oxides of lead and lead antimony alloy
- All tourism projects between 200m-500 metres of High Water Line and at locations with an elevation of more than 1000 metres with investment of more than Rs. 5 crore
- Thermal power plants
- Mining projects (with lease more than 5 hectares)
- Highway projects except projects relating to improvement work including widening and strengthening of roads with marginal land acquisition along the existing alignments provided it does not pass through ecologically sensitive areas such as National Parks, Sanctuaries, Tiger Reserves, Reserve Forests
- Tarred roads in the Himalayas and forest areas
- Raw skins and hide
- Pulp, paper and newsprint
- Foundries (Individual)
- Meta aminophenol
The important aspects of EIA are
- risk assessment,
- environmental management and
- post product monitoring.
EIA is to
- serve as a primary environmental tool with clear provisions.
- apply consistently to all proposals with potential environmental impacts.
- use scientific practice and suggest strategies for mitigation.
- address all possible factors such as short term, long term, small scale and large scale effects.
- consider sustainable aspects such as capacity for assimilation, carrying capacity, biodiversity protection.
- lay down a flexible approach for public involvement.
- have in built mechanism of follow up and feedback.
- include mechanisms for monitoring, auditing and evaluation.
In order to carry out an environmental impact assessment, the following are essential:
- assessment of existing environmental status.
- assessment of various factors of ecosystem (air, water, land, biological).
- analysis of adverse environmental impacts of the proposed project to be started.
- impact on people in the neighborhood.
- EIA provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
- EIA enables the decision makers to analyses the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
- EIA encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
- EIA makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.
- EIA links environment with development. The goal is to ensure environmentally safe and sustainable development.
- The EIA process looks into the following components of the environment.
- Quality of ambient air present and predicted.
- Meteorological data: Wind speed, direction, humidity etc.
- Quantity of emission likely from project.
- Impact of the emission on the area.
- Pollution control desires/air quality standards.
- Levels of noise present and predicted
- Strategies for reducing noise pollution.
- Existing ground and surface water resources, their quality and quantity within the zone.
- Impact of proposed project on water resources.
- Flora and fauna in impact zone.
- Potential damage (likely) due to project, due to effluents, emissions and landscaping.
- Biological stress (prediction).
- Study of soil characteristics, land use, and drainage pattern, and the likely adverse impact of the project.
- Impact on historical monuments and heritage site.
- Assessment of expected economic benefits arising out of the project have to be compared to the all the above mentioned factors. Thus we can say that environmental concerns have to be made a part of the decision to set up a project.
Steps in Preparation of EIA report
- Collection of baseline data from primary and secondary sources;
- Prediction of impacts based on past experience and mathematical modelling;
- Evolution of impacts versus evaluation of net cost benefit;
- Preparation of environmental management plans to reduce the impacts to the minimum;
- Quantitative estimation of financial cost of monitoring plan and the mitigation measures.
Environment Management Plan
- Delineation of mitigation measures including prevention and control for each environmental component and rehabilitation and resettlement plan.
EIA involves the steps mentioned below. However, EIA process is cyclical with interaction between the various steps.
- Screening: The project plan is screened for scale of investment, location and type of development and if the project needs statutory clearance.
- Scoping: The project’s potential impacts, zone of impacts, mitigation possibilities and need for monitoring.
- Collection of baseline data: Baseline data is the environmental status of study area.
- Impact prediction: Positive and negative, reversible and irreversible and temporary and permanent impacts need to be predicted which presupposes a good understanding of the project by the assessment agency.
- Mitigation measures and EIA report: The EIA report should include the actions and steps for preventing, minimizing or by passing the impacts or else the level of compensation for probable environmental damage or loss.
- Public hearing: On completion of the EIA report, public and environmental groups living close to project site may be informed and consulted.
- Decision making: Impact Assessment (IA)Authority along with the experts consult the project-in-charge along with consultant to take the final decision, keeping mind EIA and EMP (Environment Management Plan).
- Monitoring and implementation of environmental management plan: The various phases of implementation of the project are monitored.
- Assessment of Alternatives, Delineation of Mitigation Measures and Environmental Impact Assessment Report: For every project, possible alternatives should be identified and environmental attributes compared. Alternatives should cover both project location and process technologies.
- Once alternatives have been reviewed, a mitigation plan should be drawn up for the selected option and is supplemented with an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to guide the proponent towards environmental improvements.
- Risk assessment: Inventory analysis and hazard probability and index also form part of EIA procedures.
- The Committees will consist of experts in the following disciplines:
- Eco-system management
- Air/water pollution control
- Water resource management
- Flora/fauna conservation and management
- Land use planning
- Social Sciences/Rehabilitation
- Project appraisal
- Environmental Health
- Subject Area Specialists
- Representatives of NGOs/persons concerned with environmental issues
- The Chairman will be an outstanding and experienced ecologist or environmentalist or technical professional with wide managerial experience in the relevant development.
- The representative of Impact Assessment Agency will act as a Member-Secretary.
- Chairman and members will serve in their individual capacities except those specifically nominated as representatives.
- The membership of a committee shall not exceed 15 members.
- An Appraisal Committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to first scrutinized a project based on the data presented by the project authorities.
- If necessary, the Ministry of Environment and Forests may also hold consultations with the investors and experts on specific issues as and when necessary.
- After considering all the facets of a projects, environmental clearance is accorded subject to implementation of the stipulated environmental safeguards.
- In case of projects where the project proponents have submitted complete information, a decision is taken within 90 days.
- The six regional offices of the Ministry functioning at Shillong, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Lucknow and Bhopal undertake monitoring of cleared projects.
- The primary objectives of this procedure is to ensure adequacy of the suggested safeguards and also to undertake mid-course corrections if required.
- Sometimes one or more natural resources becomes limiting resource in a given region and that restrict the scopes of development projects.
EIA of Coasts
- Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) are prepared by coastal states or Union Territories as per rules set by CRZ notification 1991.
- CZMPs are prepared based on identification and categorization of coastal areas for different activities and then submitted to the MoEF for approval.
- The ministry then forms a task force for examining their plans.
Single window clearance
Environmental clearance + Forestry clearance.
- When a project requires both environmental clearance as well as approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, proposals for both are required to be given simultaneously to the concerned divisions of the Ministry.
- The processing is done simultaneously for clearance or rejection. If the project does not involve diversion of forestland, the case is processed only for environmental clearance.
- Once all the requisite documents and data from the project authorities are received and public hearings (where required) have been held, assessment and evaluation of the project from the environment angle is completed within 90 days and the decision of the ministry shall be conveyed within 30 days thereafter [120 days for final decision].
Post project monitoring
- Whenever a project is given environment clearance, a set of conditions are stipulated by the Appraisal Committee on a case to case basis, which have to be complied with by the project proponent.
- The project authorities are required to submit a half-yearly compliance report to the Ministry about the compliance of conditions stipulated.
- Cases of non-compliance of the recommendations and conditions by cleared projects/ units are brought to the notice of the Ministry, which may then initiate action against the project authorities.
EIA applies to public and private sections. The six main players are:
- Those who propose the project
- The environmental consultant who prepare EIA on behalf of project proponent.
- Pollution Control Board (State or National).
- Public has the right to express their opinion.
- The Impact Assessment Agency.
- Regional center of the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
- Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006 has decentralized the environmental clearance projects by categorizing the developmental projects in two categories, i.e., Category A (national level appraisal) and Category B (state level appraisal).
- ‘Category A’ projects are appraised at national level by Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) and the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and Category B projects are apprised at state level.
- State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) are constituted to provide clearance to Category B process.
After 2006 Amendment the EIA cycle comprises of four stages
- Public hearing
- Category A projects require mandatory environmental clearance and thus they do not undergo the screening process.
- Category B projects undergoes screening process and they are classified into two types.
- Category B, projects (Mandatory requires EIA).
- Category B2 projects (Do not require EIA).
- Thus Category A projects and Category B, projects undergo the complete EIA process whereas Category B2 projects are excluded from complete EIA process.
Notice of Public Hearing
- Whoever applies for environmental clearance of projects, should request the concerned State Pollution Control Board to initiate a public hearing.
- The State Pollution Control Board issues a notice for environmental public hearing which will be published in at least two newspapers widely circulated in the region around the project, one of which will be in the vernacular language of the locality concerned.
- State Pollution Control Board mentions the date, time and place of public hearing.
- Suggestions, views, comments and objections of the public will be invited within thirty days from the date of publication of the notification.
- All persons including the residents, environmental groups and others located at the project site/sites of displacement/sites likely to be affected can participate in the public hearing. They can also make oral/written suggestions to the State Pollution Control Board.
Composition of public hearing panel
The composition of Public Hearing Panel may consist of the following, namely:
- Representative of State Pollution Control Board;
- District Collector or his nominee;
- Representative of State Government dealing with the subject;
- Representative of Department of the State Government dealing with Environment;
- Not more than three representatives of the local bodies such as Municipalities or panchayats;
- Not more than three senior citizens of the area nominated by the District Collector.
- There are several projects with significant environmental impacts that are exempted from the notification either because they are not listed in schedule I, or their investments are less than what is provided for in the notification.
Composition of expert committees and standards
- It is being found that the team formed for conducting EIA studies is lacking the expertise in various fields such as environmentalists, wild life experts, Anthropologists and Social Scientists (to study the social impact of the project).
- For example for the preparation of EIA report of the proposed oil exploration in coast of Orissa by the reliance group has been given to the life science Dept of Berhampur university which has no expertise on the study of turtles and its life cycle.
- Public comments are not taken into account at the early stage, which often leads to conflict at the later stage of project clearance.
- A number of projects with significant environmental and social impacts have been excluded from the mandatory public hearing process.
- The documents which the public are entitled to are seldom available on time.
- The data collectors do not pay respect to the indigenous knowledge of local people.
Quality of EIA
- One of the biggest concerns with the environmental clearance process is related to the quality of EIA report that are being carried out.
- The reports are generally incomplete and provided with false data.
- Many EIA report are based on single season data.
- The EIA document in itself is so bulky and technical, which makes it very difficult to decipher so as to aid in the decision making process.
Lack of Credibility
- It is the responsibility of the project proponent to commission the preparation of the EIA for its project.
- The EIA is actually funded by an agency or individual whose primary interest is to procure clearance for the project proposed.
- There is little chance that the final assessment presented is un biased, even if the consultant may provide an unbiased assessment that is critical of the proposed project.
- There are so many cases of fraudulent EIA studies where erroneous data has been used, same facts used for two totally different places etc.
- There is no accreditation of EIA consultants, therefore any such consultant with a track record of fraudulent cases cannot be held liable for discrepancies.
- It is hard to imagine any consultant after being paid lakh of rupees, preparing a report for the project proponents, indicating that the project is not viable.
- The MoEF constituted the Western Ghats Experts Ecology Panel (WGEEP) in 2010 under the Chairmanship of Prof. Madhav Gadgil.
- The Panel submitted its report in 2011 but it was not made public immediately due to its stringent assessment of the condition of Western Ghats.
- The report suggested many radical changes that needs to be brought to conserve Western Ghats. The recommendation if implemented would adversely affect mining mafia, sand mafia and local encroachers.
- Under pressure from various stakeholders, MoEF set up the High Level Working Group (HLWG) under the Chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan to study recommendations of WGEEP.
- The very constitution of the HLWG raised suspicions that this has been formed to dilute the recommendations of the WGEEP.
- The HLWG had indeed diluted many recommendations of WGEEP to satisfy the interests of various mafia.
Monitoring, compliance and institutional arrangements
- Often, and more so for strategic industries such as nuclear energy projected, the EMPs are kept confidential for political and administrative reasons.
- Details regarding the effectiveness and implementation of mitigation measures are often not provided.
- Emergency preparedness plans are not discussed in sufficient details and the information not disseminated to the communities.
- Independent EIA Authority.
- Sector wide EIAs needed.
- Creation of a centralized baseline data bank.
- Dissemination of all information related to projects from notification to clearance to local communities and general public.
- All those projects where there is likely to be a significant alternation of ecosystems need to go through the process of environmental clearance, without exception.
- No industrial developmental activity should be permitted in ecologically sensitive areas.
- Public hearings should be applicable to all hitherto exempt categories of projects which have environmental impacts.
- The focus of EIA needs to shift from utilization and exploitation of natural resources to conservation of natural resources.
- At present EIA reports are extremely weak when it comes to assessment of biological diversity of a project area and the consequent impacts on it. This gap needs to be plugged.
- All EIA reports should clearly state what are the adverse impacts that a proposed projects will have. This should be a separate chapter and not hidden within technical details.
- The sub components or subsidiary reports of EIA reports (e.g. Assessments of Biodiversity impacts done by a sub consultant) should be made publicly accessible as standalone reports with the EIA. This should be available on the websites of the MOEF.
- EIAs should be based on full studies carried out over at least one year. Single season data on environmental parameters like biodiversity, as is being done for several rapid assessments is not adequate to gain understanding of the full impact of the proposed project.
- It is critical that the preparation of an EIA is completely independent of the project proponent.
- State and central governments should maintain a list of credible, independent and competent agencies that can carry out EIAs. similarly the EIA consultant those are making false reports should be black listed.
- A national level accreditation to environment consultancy should be adopted
Grant of clearance
- The notification needs to make it clear that the provision for site clearance does not imply any commitment on the part of the impact Assessment agency to grant full environmental clearance.
- The prior informed consent of local communities and urban wards or residents association needs to be made mandatory before the grant of environmental clearance. The consent should be from the full general body.
- The language used for specifying conditions of clearance must be clear and specific.
Composition of expert committees
- The present executive committees should be replaced by expert’s people from various stakeholder groups, who are reputed in environmental and other relevant fields.
- The process of selection of those committees should be open and transparent. The minutes, decisions and advice by these committee should be open to public.
Monitoring, compliance and institutional arrangements
- The EIA notification needs to build within it an automatic withdrawal of clearance if the conditions of clearance are being violated, and introduce more stringent punishment for noncompliance. At present the EIA notification limits itself to the stage when environmental clearance is granted.
- The MOEF should set up more regional offices with advisory Expert committees, each with smaller areas of jurisdiction, to effectively monitor the compliance of clearance conditions.
- The composition of the NGT needs to be changed to include more judicials from the field of environment.
- Citizen should be able to access the authority for redressal of all violation of the EIA notification as well as issues relating to non-compliance.
- NGOs, civil society groups and local communities need to build their capacities to use the EIA notification towards better decision making on projects.