By Lucy Rana and Rupin Chopra
With all the developmental change that the world was going through, though benefiting people was also causing some serious and major damages to the earth, the consequences of which are extremely dreadful. In order to cope up with the ever increasing development and changing environment, arose the need to protect the environment and therefore relevant laws and environmental policies came into effect. India being one of the developing countries has been undergoing major developmental changes and has therefore enacted many laws and regulations through the Indian Constitution to enforce this matter.
With the rising controversies regarding projects being granted for commercial gain at immense cost to the environment and the larger public interest, the Government has been amending laws and issuing notifications to ensure a balance is created and that country’s growth trajectory is not blocked.
The recent 2020 notification issued by the government on streamlining the process of granting Environmental Clearances with regard to Essential Details Sought (EDS) is one such notification in this regard.
ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCE AND ITS PROCESS
Environmental Clearance is a process to assess the impact of the planned project on the environment and people and to try to abate/ minimise the same. The environmental clearance process is required for 39 types of projects and covers facets from screening to environmental appraisal.
As per the environmental clearance regulation, it is mandatory to get government clearance for projects that give rise to high damage to the environment, or cause high environmental pollution of any type. The clearance is mandatory for areas that are ecologically fragile, regardless of the type of project.
Environmental Clearances for projects are divided into the following two categories:
- Category A- this consists of projects that require to undergo mandatory environmental clearance in order for the projects to be developed and operated. These projects go to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for clearance.
- Category B- the projects under this category undergo a mandatory screening process. They go to the State Government for clearance.
- In furtherance to the above mentioned categories, projects which are located in areas such as tribal settlements, Border areas, Gulf areas etc., require environmental clearance irrespective of the type of project.
ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCE PROCESS
Following mandatory steps are to be followed in order to get Environmental Clearance for a proposed project:
- Identification of Location
- Public Hearing
- Environmental Appraisal
NOTIFICATIONS PERTAINING TO ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCE
- As per the 2018 notification issued by MoEF&CC on 18.11.2020 for streamlining the process to reduce the days taken by the authorities in granting EC, the following guidelines which are as follows:
- Meetings- All Expert Appraisal Committee (“EAC”) meetings to be held at least twice a month to cut down the time of EC approval.
- Submission of proposals- All fresh EC proposals have to be submitted within 10 days before EAC. Project Proponent would be required to submit presentation along with EC application.
- Acceptance of proposal- Acceptance process of EC application shall be limited to checking if all relevant documents have been submitted and all Terms of Reference (“ToRs”) have been covered. Queries have to be raised during EAC meeting only.
- All projects placed in the agenda should be considered by the EAC.
- Project Proponents- In case project proponent did not attend the meeting or does not answer queries raised for more than six months the Member Secretary would write to the Regional office of MoEF&CC to carry out site inspection to check if project has started.
- Member Secretary can take up all proposals to EAC for which reply has been received even after agenda has been uploaded until two working days before the next EAC meeting.
- The guidelines are applicable to the ToRs and amendments.
As per the 2021 notification issued by MoEF&CC on 15.03.2021 for streamlining the process of granting Environmental Clearance with regard to Essential Details Sought (EDS):
- The project proponents/ consultants who are aware of the Essential Details which is required by the Ministry for appraising the proposals for the grant of EC are required to submit such details to the Ministry.
- The Project proponent is mandated by the Ministry owing to the inefficiency of the project proponents/consultants in submitting the Essential Details to the concerned Member Secretaries of the Impact Assessment Division.
- If the project proponents/consultants do not reply or send a delayed reply on the PARIVESH portal within 30 days of submitting the proposal, the same shall not be considered for providing Environmental Clearances at that juncture. However, if the proponents wish to proceed in future, they can relist the proposal seeking Environmental Clearance through their respective login provisions on the PARIVESH Portal and thereby submit their reply.
 F.No. 22-35/2020-IA. III.
Understanding Environmental Law in India