Overview of Environmental Clearance
Environmental clearance refers to getting government approval for the installation and modification (amendment) of specified projects. It is essential for activities that have the potential to cause severe environmental contamination. The government has produced a comprehensive list of projects, such as mining, thermal power plants, and infrastructure, all requiring environmental approval. The clearance process is necessary for 39 projects today, including screening, scoping, and evaluating the upcoming project. The EIA Notice categorises projects into two categories, Category A and Category B (further subdivided into B1 and B2). The MoEF&CC approves Category A projects, whilst the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority approves Category B projects. One of the essential foundations of a successful EIA process is public participation. It allows persons directly impacted by a project to express their thoughts on the project's environmental and social implications and increases openness in the EC procedure. Almost all EIA systems include some form of public participation. They are done through public consultation (or discussion) or public involvement (a more interactive and intensive process of stakeholder engagement).
Importance of Public Participation
Public participation is an important stage in the EC process and critical to the success of an EIA. It allows persons impacted by the project to express their concerns about the proposal's social and environmental effects, and it ensures openness within the EC procedure. Virtually every EIA system includes a mechanism for public participation. It might take the form of public engagement or consultation. Most EIA processes involve public engagement. The term "public consultation" refers to the procedure by which residents' concerns about adverse effects are considered in the EIA research. The importance of this stage has been highlighted
- The public consultation process is the foundation for an unbiased and transparent decision-making process that results in the best environmental outcomes.
- The sort of consultation, whom to seek advice from during EIA projects, when and how to do it, and who should carry it out vary greatly depending on the project. The project's requirements determine this. Nonetheless, it is an essential component for all project kinds. Public consultations alleviate the local community's worries and reduce the amount of erroneous detail in the EIA report.
- Public participation should begin when the project concept is realised and continue throughout the EIA phase.
- Examining, scoping, impact assessment and mitigation, ensuring EIA quality, and implementation and follow-up are the five core steps of public engagement in the EIA process.
- Even if neighbourhood people express specific concerns during the public hearing process, they cannot guarantee that they will be addressed in the final EIA report because it is inaccessible.
Documents required for Environmental Clearance
The documents required for obtaining EC may vary depending on the project's nature, scope, and scale. However, some of the commonly required documents include the following:
- Project proposal or feasibility report - This document provides an overview of the proposed project, including its purpose, location, and scope.
- Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report - The EIA report is a detailed study of the potential environmental impacts from the proposed project, and the measures to mitigate or minimise these impacts.
- Site plans and maps - These documents provide details of the project site, including its location, boundaries, topography, and land use.
- Consent from local authorities - This includes no-objection certificates (NOCs) or clearances from the local authorities, such as the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), the Ministry of Urban Development, or the Ministry of Civil Aviation, depending on the nature of the project.
- Details of the project proponent include information about the company or individual proposing the project, including their registration documents, ownership details, and financial statements.
- Public hearing report - If required, the project proponent must conduct a public hearing to obtain feedback and opinions from the local community about the proposed project. A report on the public hearing must be submitted as part of the EC application.
- Environmental Management Plan (EMP) - The EMP is a detailed plan for managing the project's environmental impacts, including measures for pollution control, waste management, and biodiversity conservation.
Requirement on Environmental Clearance
The 1994 EIA Notification made EC essential for all new projects and the expansion/modernisation of existing projects spanning 29 disciplines, including hydro-power, significant irrigation, and flood control projects. Schedule 1 of the 2006 EIA Notification lists 32 distinct categories of projects that require environmental approval. In addition, an industrial colour code was developed, which categorised sectors based on their environmental effect. Depending on their pollution potential, the industries were classified as red, orange, green, or white. Only companies classified as white are free from getting environmental permission.
These are some projects that require environmental approval:
- Historical and religious monuments
- Archaeology monuments
- Natural habitats
- Mountain retreats
- Beach resorts
- Coastal areas containing mangroves, corals, and breeding places for specific species
- Gulf Regions
- Biosphere Reserves
- National parks and wildlife refuges.
- National wetlands and lakes
- Zones of Seismicity
- Tribal settlements
- Scientific and geological interests
- Defence establishments, particularly those with high security and sensitivity to pollution.
- International Borderlands
Laws governing Environmental Clearance Certificate
The Environment Protection Act functions as an umbrella law, assisting the central government in coordinating environmental agencies at the federal and state levels.The Environment Act's stated goal is "to provide for the conservation and enhancement of the environment and related things.
- Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 - The Environment Protection Act is a comprehensive statute that envisions rule-making Authority and spans several aspects of environmental law. The central government is given broad rule-making Authority to carry out the Act's provisions.
- EIA Notification (2006)
The Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, was issued under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, and it superseded the EIA Notification of 1994. The law specified a precise method for getting prior environmental approval for developing or extending a project, such as projects specified in Schedule 1 or projects for development in unstable regions.If the project involves forestland, the project proponent must get a letter of intent from the Ministry of Industry and NOCs from the SPCBs and the State Forest Department, Site clearance and final environmental approval for constructing and operating any new power plant.
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Process of Environmental Clearance
Obtaining Environmental Clearance (EC) in India involves several steps, which may vary depending on the nature, scale, and location of the proposed project. The steps involved in obtaining Environmental Clearance in India can be lengthy and complex and may involve multiple rounds of review and consultation. If the requirements specified in the EC are not met, the Appraisal Committee has the Authority to revoke the EC issued for that project. The following are some of the critical steps in the EC process:
- Screening: The first step is to determine if the proposed project requires EC or if it is exempted under the applicable laws and regulations. Projects that are listed under the Schedule I or Schedule II of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006, require EC.
- Scoping: The project proponent must prepare a scoping document outlining the proposed project's key environmental issues and impacts. The scoping document is submitted to the State-Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) for review and approval.
- Terms of Reference (ToR): Based on the scoping document, the SEAC issues the Terms of Reference (ToR) for preparing the EIA report. The ToR specifies the scope and content of the EIA report, including the environmental parameters to be studied, the methodology for impact assessment, and the mitigation measures to be implemented.
- Preparation of EIA report: The project proponent must prepare a detailed EIA report in accordance with the ToR and the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The EIA report must be prepared by a qualified consultant. It must include a detailed assessment of the potential environmental impacts of the project, as well as the measures to mitigate or minimise these impacts.
- Public consultation: The project proponent must conduct a public consultation process to obtain feedback and opinions from the local community about the proposed project. The public consultation may include public hearings, stakeholder meetings, and other forms of engagement.
- Review and clearance: The SEAC reviews the EIA report and the public consultation feedback and issues its recommendation to the State-Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). The SEIAA reviews the SEAC recommendation and the EIA report and decides whether to grant EC or not.
- Implementation of Environmental Management Plan (EMP): Once EC is granted, the project proponent must implement the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) that outlines the measures to mitigate the project's potential environmental impacts. The project proponent is also required to submit regular reports to the regulatory authorities on implementing the EMP.
*Note - Depending on the kind of project, the EC awarded is valid for a specific number of years. If the EC has expired, the project proponent can renew it using the same method.
Environmental Clearance Certificate
Before beginning any new infrastructure or expansion project, an ECcertificate from the central or state pollution control board is necessary. The EC certificate certifies that the project will not harm the environment or society. Clearance or rejection letters are necessary when a project requires both EC and approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980. Proposals for both are made to the relevant ministries. After obtaining all relevant papers and data from project authorities and having public hearings (if necessary), the environmental assessment and evaluation of the project are completed within 90 days, and the ministry's decision is conveyed within 30 days.
Aggrieved by order of grant of Environmental Certificate -
According to the National Environment Appellate Authority Act of 1997, any person who is dissatisfied with the order granting EC in the areas where the industries, operations, or processes shall or shall not be carried out may file an appeal with the Authority within 30 days of the date of the order. If there is a compelling reason for the delay, the Authority may hear the appeal outside this time frame. The appeal must be resolved within 90 days of the date of filing. This can be extended for an additional 30 days.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The laws regulating ECare:
- Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986
- Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006