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  • Context (IE): According to the EIA report, the trapping of workers in the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel collapse in Uttarakhand might not have happened if there had been a separate escape tunnel.
  • The project had dismissed the idea of a separate escape tunnel, citing increased construction time, cost, and low anticipated traffic volume.
  • A separate escape tunnel is a duct running next to the main tunnel with access at regular intervals.

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • EIA is a tool to anticipate the likely environmental impacts of the proposed developmental activities and suggest mitigation measures and strategies.
  • EIA was introduced in India in 1978 for river valley projects.
  • Later, the EIA legislation was enhanced to include other developmental sections.
  • EIA comes under Notification on EIA of Developmental Projects 1994 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provisions.
  • EIA is now mandatory for more than 30 categories of projects, and these projects get Environmental Clearance (EC) only after the EIA requirements are fulfilled.
  • EC is granted by the Impact Assessment Agency in the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

Salient Features of the 2006 Amendment to EIA Notification

  • The EIA Notification of 2006 has decentralised the environmental clearance projects by categorising the developmental projects into two categories:
    1. Category A (national-level appraisal)
    2. Category B (state-level appraisal)

Drawbacks of the EIA

  • Applicability: Certain projects with significant environmental impacts are exempted due to category classification or investment thresholds provided in the notification.
  • Lack of expertise: EIA teams may lack diverse expertise from environmental science, wildlife, and social sciences, leading to incomplete assessments.
  • Ineffective public hearings: Public comments are not considered at the early stage, which often leads to conflict at the later stage of project clearance.
  • Weak compliance monitoring
  • Biased EIA reports
  • Data and information gaps

Case Study: Char Dham Project

  • Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna seeks to improve connectivity between four pilgrimage sitesKedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri – in Uttarakhand.
  • The project was started in 2016 and is now nearing completion.
  • It focuses on the widening of the existing roads in the region.
  • The entire length of the highways will be two-laned with paved shoulder.
  • It is implemented by three executing agencies of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways:
    1. Uttarakhand State Public Works Department
    2. Border Road Organization (BRO)
    3. National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL)

How the Char Dhan Project Escaped EIA?

  • The Char Dham project was broken down into “53 civil works” to avail the exemption from environmental clearance provided to all linear projects under 100 km since 2013.

Char Dham All-Weather Road Project

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