Environmental Clearance

What Projects Require Environmental Clearance in India?  

calendar11 Jan, 2024
timeReading Time: 12 Minutes
Environmental Clearance

Environmental Clearance is crucial for sustainable development as it ensures that the proposed infrastructure projects adhere to environmental standards and, at the same time, the commercial viability of the company or individual remains intact. The process involves assessing potential environmental impacts and is overseen by regulatory authorities. It determines the ecological feasibility of new projects and the potential for expansion. This includes the preparation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports and adherence to Terms of Reference (TOR). The Environmental clearance for potentially hazardous projects requiring additional scrutiny is issued by the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC)or Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), appointed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFC).

Definition and Purpose of Environmental Clearance

The Environment Protection Act mandates that EIA compliance and other Environmental regulations be sufficiently observed and practised as amajor Environmental Clearance, especially for Infrastructure and Energy Projects. It aims to evaluate and address the potential Ecological impacts of such activities and endeavour to mitigate them. MoEFC is the governing body that oversees and regulates  EIA, SEAC, and EAC processes and is responsible for ensuring Eco-Friendly Project Planning. Environmental Clearance requirements under compliances like EIA Notification involve the preparation of the EIA report guided by Terms of Reference. Furthermore, it includes public consultation and appraisal committee review to ensure sustainable development and hazard mitigation. Utilizing Natural language Processing (NLP) terms such as “preparation of EIA report,” “environment clearance,” “Eco-friendly Project Planning”, environmental clearance certificate and “hazard planning” ensures a comprehensive understanding of the purpose and process.

Laws and Regulations Governing Environment-related compliances

The operations and overall functioning of major projects for environmental clearances are carried out by the Central Government (MoEFC), in consonance with the State Pollution Control Board and SEIAA playing significant roles in the clearance process. The various expenditure requirements related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) under the Companies Act and Environmental Social Governance (ESG) guidelines under various laws and regulations are some very important Environmental Clearness to be complied with by the Companies and individuals carrying out sizeable and/or potentially hazardous businesses.   Categories of projects requiring clearance are outlined in the EIA notification, and the entire process must adhere to strict regulations to ensure compliance with environmental protection laws. Regulatory authorities are responsible for enforcing these laws to protect the environment.

The Imperative of Obtaining Environmental Clearance

Public participation plays a vital role in legitimizing the process of environment clearance, allowing stakeholders to express concerns about potential environmental impacts. This process also aligns with climate change adaptation strategies and promotes sustainable development while safeguarding environmental interests. Moreover, it fosters transparency and accountability in project development, ensuring that the concerns of all parties are adequately addressed.

Stakeholders involved in the EIA Compliance and Environment Clearance Process

One of the main characteristics of Environmental Compliance reporting is the inclusion of public stakeholders in the regulatory approval process. As part of the Public Hearing stage of the EIA Reporting Process, representatives from the Public, such as Environmental Consultants and activists, NGOs, and private agencies, as well as Government Agencies such as the Central/State Pollution Control Board, Regional offices of MoEFC, Wildlife Protection Board among others form part of the Impact Assessment Agency and can request for relevant documents and disclosures related to the project.

Importance of Public Participation

Public involvement allows impacted communities to express their perspectives on projects, as mandated by the Ministry of Environment. This inclusive approach ensures a comprehensive evaluation of potential environmental impacts and promotes transparent decision-making in the environmental clearance process. Effective engagement strengthens the credibility of environmental clearance, aligning with the preparation of EIA reports and compliance with regulations from SEAC, TOR, MoEFC, and EAC in India.

Primary Goal of Environmental Clearance

The central objective of environmental clearance is to minimize the potential environmental impacts associated with various projects. This comprehensive process aims to achieve a harmonious balance between development initiatives and the conservation of the environment. By assessing, predicting, and effectively managing the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects, the air and water pollution control for projects endeavors to ensure sustainable and responsible development practices while mitigating any adverse environmental effects through regulatory oversight.

Categorization of Industries based on Environmental Clearance required. 

Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006

The Government of India, on the advice of and conjointly with MoEFC, released the EIA Notification for the first time in 2006. The notification divided the projects, based upon the nature of environmental degradation and Environmental Clearances required, into two broad categories – A & B. Category A, where those projects under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and assessed by the Central Impact Assessment Agency and Expert Appraisal Committee. These Projects fell under the priority list, received the highest level of scrutiny from the authorities, and were subject to strict reporting and environmental Clearance requirements. The Projects falling in Category B were allocated to the Concerned State and UT Impact Assessment Agencies. Unlike Category A, these projects have to undergo a screening process consisting of 4 stages, namely screening, scoping, public hearing, and appraisal.

  EIA Notification was amended several times post-2006, the most recent one being in 2020 when some major changes. They include Post-Facto approval, i.e. approval after the project has commenced operations, Reduction in time for the Public Consultation process, and reduction in the frequency of regulatory filing requirements. The crux of the 2020 amendment was to give more flexibility to the Environmental Clearance assessments, ease the entire assessment process by weeding out redundancies, and make the overall EIA process smooth and efficient.

Based on the Environmental Impact of Industries, they are categorized into two broad categories: A and B.

Category A

Projects falling under Category A require clearance from the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Central Government. They include projects having a significant impact on the environment, such as power plants, factories, mining units, thermal plants, harbours, ports, etc. The MoEFC vide a notification in 2015 clarified that projects falling in severely polluting or hazardous category, carrying with them an inherent risk of outflow or spillage and as mentioned in the schedule to the notification, shall be required to undergo a rigorous checklist process for approval of Eco-Friendly Project Planning. Such projects shall be assessed for parameters such as the possibility and extent of harm to the Land Environment, Water Environment, Air Environment, Vegetation, Fauna, Flora, etc.

Category B

Projects falling under Category B require Clearance from the State or UT Expert Appraisal Committee. The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) shall form its decision based on the report and analysis of the State Expert Appraisal Committee. However, Projects that are not environmentally hazardous or do not carry the risk of large-scale degradation of the quality of the environment are required to go through a four-stage screening process steered and overseen by the State Assessment Authority.

The Process for Procuring Environmental Clearance

Environmental clearance through valuation and compliance with EIA standards is a 4- stage process. Identification of the project site or screeding is the first step, followed by scoping of the project. The preparation of the EIA report is a critical component, and the public hearing provides stakeholders with an opportunity to express their concerns and propose amendments. The report contains all possible outcomes, negative and positive, as a product of the project, its impact on the Environment, and reasonable measures to prevent or mitigate the adverse consequences of the project.

Finally, the Appraisal Committee reviews the EIA report before granting environmental clearance, which is issued by regulatory authorities based on the project’s environmental impact assessment. The 2020 Amendment to EIA exempted several projects from its purview, such as small-scale irrigation and agriculture, cement factories, short-length inland waterway projects, etc., and established an online facility for filing and approval formalities in the way of obtaining Environmental Clearance.

Step 1 – Identification of Location and Screening

Air and water pollution control for projects is crucial to assess the need for environmental clearance. Identifying the project location is essential in evaluating potential environmental impacts. The process starts with scoping and detailed project assessment, outlining the boundaries and focus of the environmental impact assessment. Comprehensive site identification is necessary for conducting a detailed environmental impact assessment. This initial process sets the stage for the subsequent phases of environmental clearance. Projects falling in Category B shall be further bifurcated into two sub-categories- B1 and B2. While projects categorized as B1 will require an EIA report, projects under the B2 category shall be exempt from the requirement of EIA clearance.

Step 2 – Public Hearing and Application

The public hearing allows stakeholders to provide feedback on potential environmental impacts, promoting transparency and engagement. Project proponents must submit detailed environmental clearance applications for regulatory review. This application process involves providing comprehensive project information for assessment and informing the environmental appraisal committee’s decision with stakeholder input. The preparation of the EIA report and submission of TOR for the project site are essential steps for environmental clearance in India. The State Pollution Control Board shall be responsible for organizing the Public hearing, collecting written responses and opinions from the public stakeholders, and making necessary changes to the EIA or Environment Protection Compliance Plan. The Public Hearing shall be completed within 45 days from the date of filing of the application by the Project Proponent.

Step 3- Environmental Appraisal

The evaluation of the EIA report by the Expert Appraisal Committee is a crucial step in determining the potential environmental impacts of the projects. It ensures compliance with environmental protection regulations, influencing the decision to grant clearance. This stage is essential as it assesses the project’s adherence to environmental norms and its impact on the surroundings, enabling informed decision-making for granting environmental clearance.

Step 4- Grant of Environmental Clearance and Risk and Mitigation

After examination and approval of the Assessment Report of MoEFC and State Impact Assessment Agency, the project is given an Environmental Clearance Certificate and authorization to proceed. The Assessment Report shall also contain details about the risk analysis and mitigation measures that are undertaken by the Project Entity in pursuance of observance of Environment Protection Covenants laid down by the Government.

Documents Required for Environmental Clearance

Organizations seeking environment clearance must furnish comprehensive project reports for review by the appraisal committee. The preparation of the EIA report holds significant weight in this process. Additionally, the submission of the terms of reference for the proposed project is essential for environmental clearance. Public hearings play an instrumental role in the clearance process, facilitating public engagement and transparency. Lastly, the appraisal committee meticulously evaluates the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project, ensuring regulatory compliance and environmental protection.

List of Necessary Documents

To obtain environmental clearance in India, the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is essential. Other necessary documents include the project proponent’s details, project site information, comprehensive environmental management plans, existing environmental condition data, details of the consultation,the public hearing process, and mitigation measures proposed in the Final Assessment Report. Additionally, any proposed modification during public consultation requires proper documentation. Submission of these documents is necessary for the Appraisal Committee review. The Terms of Reference (TOR) submitted to the Appraisal Committee outline a detailed summary of the project, its impact on the environment, and possible measures taken by the Company or Entity helping the project.

How to Apply for EIA Environmental Clearance

Submission of documents for environment clearance can be facilitated through the online PARIVESH portal, with the state pollution control board serving as a primary authority. While physical submission is also possible, project proponents might need to engage with central government authorities. Moreover, consultation and document submission occur at district-level industrial project locations, ensuring comprehensive coverage of the process.

Projects That Mandatorily Require Environmental Clearance

Category A projects are mandated to require an Environmental Clearance, irrespective of size and volume. Expansion projects, such as major irrigation and flood control projects, require the preparation of an EIA report for environmental clearance. Developmental projects, including new infrastructure and townships, must obtain clearance from SEAC with TOR from MoEFCC, India. Thermal power plant projects mandate Environmental Clearance from the MoEFC in Mumbai. New projects impacting national parks require an appraisal by EAC for hazardous activities. Infrastructure development like nuclear power and wetlands necessitate proper environmental clearance.

Mining and Extraction of Natural Resources

Mining and Mineral extraction activities are required to undergo the process of obtaining Environmental Clearance. This includes major projects such as quarrying, sand mining, and open-cast mining. The assessment involves a detailed environmental impact assessment report along with consultation and public hearing processes for the mining project clearance. Additionally, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) plays a significant role in this process.

Materials Production and Processing

Projects involving the production and processing of materials, such as timber and pulp word, petroleum, rubber, sugarcane processing, etc., require environmental clearance. This includes industrial activities such as manufacturing, processing, and warehousing, all of which require the essential environmental impact assessment report for clearance. Any proposed modifications during public consultation must be documented, and adherence to terms of reference as per EIA notification is crucial for the clearance of such projects. Air and water pollution control for projects are vital in production and manufacturing industries since the measures assess, mitigate and reduce the impact of  adverse impact of the Project on the Environment.

Infrastructure and Building Projects

In the context of infrastructure and building projects, securing environmental clearance is mandatory. This includes new infrastructure and townships, along with construction projects like roads, highways, dams, bridges, and power plants. The Environmental Impact Assessment Report and further assessment of the project by Impact Assessment Agencies play an important role in this clearance process. Additionally, Terms of Reference, according to the EIA notification, are essential for obtaining clearing infrastructure projects. Public hearings and consultations allow the project to be reviewed by external agencies and private stakeholders to ensure overall compliance with the EIA standards and MoEFC guidelines.

Validity and Renewal of Environmental Clearance

Environmental clearances, under India’s Environment Protection Act and EIA framework, have a specific validity duration for each project. Renewal necessitates updated project details and an environment impact assessment report submission. The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority reviews renewal applications, while the appraisal committee assesses potential environmental impacts. The consultation and public hearing process are integral during renewal. This process ensures that any changes in the project are documented and potential environmental implications are thoroughly evaluated. The average validity of environmental Clearance under EIA is from five to thirty years and can be renewed by submitting an application in Form 1 and Form 1A by the Project Holding Entity.            

Conclusion

To ensure sustainable development and to protect the environment, it is crucial to understand the process of obtaining environmental clearance for various projects. This not only helps minimize the adverse impacts on the ecosystem but also promotes transparency, accountability, and effective administration and evaluation by environmental protection agencies. Public participation plays a significant role in the decision-making process, ensuring that the concerns of all stakeholders are addressed.

By following the prescribed procedures and submitting the required documents, project proponents can obtain the necessary clearance. It is important to note that certain projects, such as mining, materials production, and infrastructure development, mandatorily require environmental clearance due to their potential impact on the environment.

Understanding the validity and renewal process of environmental clearance is essential to maintain compliance with regulations. By utilizing this information effectively, project proponents can ensure responsible and sustainable development practices, contributing to the overall well-being of both society and the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Environmental Impact Assessment?

EIA is the metric of assessing the Impact of a Commercial project on the Environment and Ecology of a particular location by taking into account various factors such as pollution and hazardous waste generated, socio-environmental implications, economic and commercial opportunity created, and overall impact on the Ecology of a district, state or even the country.

2. Where was EIA implemented for the first time in the World?

The EIA was first introduced in the United States of America through the National Environment Protection Act (NEPA) of 1969.

3. By whom and when was EIA promogulated in India?

EIA was promogulated for the first time in 1994, on the lines of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, as a mandate for Projects modernizing or expanding to obtain Environmental Clearance from the Regulatory Authorities. The first formal EIA notification was published by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate in 2006, laying down guidelines and who the parties and stakeholders are in an EIA framework.

4. What are the regulating authorities for implementing EIA?

The implementation, administration, clearance, and approval process of EIA and other Environmental Clearances is overseen by statutory authorities such as the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Central and State Pollution Control Board(s), Environment Protection Board and other state-level environment protection and pollution – control committees and agencies

5. How many categories of Developmental Projects are defined under EIA?

The EIA Notification, 2006 categorized EIA-applicable Projects into two broad heads – Category A, who are mandatorily required to undergo the EIA process and obtain Environmental Clearance, and Category B, who are required to undergo a screening process in addition to obtaining EIA Clearance.

6. Are any projects exempted from EIA compliance requirements?

Yes, Category B Projects are further subdivided into two heads – B1- which require EIA compliance and B2 that do not require EIA Compliance requirement.

7. What are the projects covered under category A of the EIA Process?

Category A covers major projects that can have a sizeable impact on the environment, such as
1. Oil refineries
2. Thermal Power Stations with massive output potential
3. Metal and Steel Manufacturing Industries
4. Petroleum and Natural Gas refineries and processing Units
5. Large gas and oil Pipelines
6. Large – Scale Pulp and Timber -production businesses

8. Which agency or statutory body is responsible for appraising the Projects on Environmental aspects?

The Category A Projects are appraised by the National-Level Impact Assessment Agency and Expert Appraisal Committee. The Category B Projects are appraised by State -Level Committee known as the State-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).

9. How many stages are there in an EIA Process?

The EIA Process consists of 4 stages, namely –
1. Screening and Scoping of Project
2. Public Hearing and Appraisal
3. Environmental Appraisal and evaluation of Mitigation measures posed b the applicant
4. Grant of environmental clearance certificate and Mitigation Measures

10. What are the Thresholds for Projects under Category A, B1, and B2?

Based on the Impact on the Environment, Project A includes those projects that have an investment value of up to Rs. 50 Crore. Meanwhile, for projects under the B1 and B2 categories, the thresholds are up to 10 crore and one crore, respectively.

11. How can I Apply for an EIA Certificate Online?

you can apply for an Environmental Clearance Certificate by making an account on the PARIVESH portal of the MoEFC and proceeding with making an application for the Environmental Clearance.

12. How can Corpbiz help with the EIA application and process?

Corpbiz provides specialized and cost-effective regulatory filing and compliance services for the environmental clearance needs of your project. Our dedicated legal and compliance team ensures that you stay compliant, not only concerning mandatory filings, approvals, and permits under the Environment Protection Act and mandates of Pollution Control Boards and MoEFC, such as EIA, EC, Consent to Operate, and Consent To Establish, etc, but also Corporate Social Responsibility requirements such as CSR fund formation and other compliances, ESG policy framing, Environmental clearance certificate, Green Governance functions, etc.

13. What are the Documents required for an Environmental Impact Assessment Application?

The EIA report is formulated based on a Terms of Reference (TOR) document, which requires the following documents for further evaluation of the project –
• Information about the project, such as location, industry type, production capacity, capital investment
• Environmental details of the project, such as waste generated, smoke emission levels, manner of discharging effluents, electricity and water consumption, maintenance cost
• Details about environmentally hazardous or polluting substances used in the production or manufacturing process.
• Assessment of pollution in the immediate environment, such as soil, water, air, land, fauna, human population, and wildlife
• Risk analysis about key areas of hazard and possible mitigation proposed by the Project proponent
• Details of installed machinery
• Payroll details of workers and employees working in the project unit
• Site Layout and Plan
• ID proof and details of the Authorized representatives of the company/unit or the Project proponent themselves
• Land Records and Lease Agreement of the Site

14. What is the average cost incurred by a project proponent to conduct an EIA?

The cost of undergoing an EIA varies, depending upon various factors like total capital investment, nature and output of the project, industry type, location, and most importantly, the impact it would have on the environment and abounding ecology. The same can range from a few lakh rupees to even crores; hence, it is not possible to quantify subjectively the cost of a typical EIA process and obtaining an Environmental clearance certificate in India.

15. In case of any dispute related to the EIA compliance process or any other Environmental clearance, where can one approach for resolution?

All disputes and differences related to EIA compliances and environmental clearances or any other matter about violation of environment protection laws and regulations and environment protection are heard by the National Green Tribunal.It is a court specialized in adjudicating matters related to environmental laws.

Read Our Article: How to Obtain EIA for Pulp & Paper Industry?

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