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Draft EIA Notification – Does it balance the economy and the environment?

Draft EIA Notification – Does it balance the economy and the environment?

The draft EIA notification 2020, which is going to replace the EIA notification 2006, was put in the public domain on March 12 and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change (MoEFCC).

Amendments proposed:

  • Post-facto approvals: Under this certain projects can be started even without clearance. Clearance will be given post facto.
  • It proposes to expand the list of projects that do not need to seek public consultation before they seek environment clearance.
  • Foe eg: in irrigation projects, all building, construction and area development projects, inland waterways, expansion or widening of national highways, all projects concerning national defence and security etc.
  • No information shall be placed in the public domain of all projects concerning national defence and security or involving other strategic considerations.
  • Time allotted for public participation has been reduced.
  • Some projects are also accepted from public hearings eg; linear projects like pipelines and highways in border areas.

What is EIA:

Environment Impact Assessment or EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment. A decision making tool, EIA compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.

Project types:

The EIA Notification, 2006, broadly divides all projects into two categories—

  1. Category A – permission granted by granted by the Union environment ministry.
  2. Category B1 and B2 – permission by state level authorities.

Only Category A and Category B1 require an EIA and public consultation.

The eight steps of the EIA process are presented in brief below:

  • Screening: First stage of EIA, which determines whether the proposed project, requires an EIA and if it does, then the level of assessment required. 
  • Scoping: This stage identifies the key issues and impacts that should be further investigated. This stage also defines the boundary and time limit of the study.
  • Impact analysis: This stage of EIA identifies and predicts the likely environmental and social impact of the proposed project and evaluates the significance.
  • Mitigation: This step in EIA recommends the actions to reduce and avoid the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities.
  • Reporting: This stage presents the result of EIA in a form of a report to the decision-making body and other interested parties. 
  • Review of EIA: It examines the adequacy and effectiveness of the EIA report and provides the information necessary for decision-making.
  • Decision-making: It decides whether the project is rejected, approved or needs further change.
  • Post monitoring: This stage comes into play once the project is commissioned. It checks to ensure that the impacts of the project do not exceed the legal standards and implementation of the mitigation measures are in the manner as described in the EIA report.

Road ahead:

  • Clearly the proposed amendments are intended to speed up the clearance of projects. 
  • The non- divulgence of information regarding strategic projects must have been not without reason.   
  • However, misuse of these rules might happen especially in the case of post facto approvals.
  • Hence, measures must be place to avoid this.
  • Economic development post covid-19 is important however it has to be

Source:” NIOS/Downtoearth“.

Possible UPSC CSE Mains Question:

Examine the recently proposed amendments to the Environmental impact assessment act. Do they balance economic development and environmental sustainability?