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Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is a planning tool to integrate the environmental concerns into developmental process right at the initial stage of planning and suggest necessary mitigation measures. EIA essentially refers to the assessment of environmental impacts likely to arise from a project.

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is a planning tool to integrate the environmental concerns into developmental process right at the initial stage of planning and suggest necessary mitigation measures. EIA essentially refers to the assessment of environmental impacts likely to arise from a project.

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is a planning tool to integrate the environmental concerns into developmental process right at the initial stage of planning and suggest necessary mitigation measures. EIA essentially refers to the assessment of environmental impacts likely to arise from a project.

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is the nodal Ministry for notifying the EIA Notification under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (EPA) gives power to the Central Government to take all measures that it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing and controlling abating environmental pollution. To meet this objective, the Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards [Section 3 (2)(v)]

EIA Notification first time came into existence on 27th January, 1994 requiring prior environmental clearance for 29 categories of projects/processes listed there under. It was subsequently made applicable to 32 categories.

EIA Notification, 1994 required projects to obtain environmental clearance based on investment criteria (originally it was Rs. 50 crores, which was enhanced to Rs. 100 crores), except for mining project, where the lease area and nature of mineral were the criteria for applicability of the Notification.

Review of EIA Notification, 1994 was undertaken based on recommendations of a project by World Bank as well as by Govindrajan Committee on Disinvestment.

The present EIA Notification was issued on 14th September, 2006.

All new projects or activities listed in the Schedule to this notification; expansion and modernization of existing projects or activities listed in the Schedule to this notification with addition of capacity beyond the limits specified for the concerned sector, that is, projects or activities which cross the threshold limits given in the Schedule, after expansion or modernization; any change in product – mix in an existing manufacturing unit included in Schedule beyond the specified range.

The objectives of EIA Notification, 2006 inter alia include: (i) to formulate a transparent, decentralized and efficient regulatory mechanism to integrate environmental concerns into developmental process with a view to facilitating sustainable development. (ii) to ensure incorporation of necessary environmental safeguards at planning stage in the project cycle, so as to ensure minimal impact on different components of environment. (iii) to ensure involvement of stakeholders in public consultation process through public hearing and to ascertain the views of the public on the proposed project or activity.

The salient features of EIA Notification, 2006 inter alia include: (i) The EIA Notification, 2006 has categorized the projects into two categories namely; Category ‘A’ and Category ‘B’ based on their impact potential.

(ii) Category ‘A’ projects will be appraised at the Central level while Category ‘B’ project at the State level.

(iii) State level Environment Impact Assessment Authorities and Committees (SEIAAs and SEACs) have been constituted for the purpose of appraisal of Category ‘B’ projects.

(iv) The stage of scoping for prescribing terms of reference by the Regulatory Agency for the EIA studies has been incorporated in accordance with the International practice. It is expected to improve the quality of EIA thereby improving the quality of decision making and minimizing the delays.

(v) The public consultation process has been made more structured. It has two components i.e. comments through correspondence and by public hearing at site. Provision to videograph the proceedings of the public hearing has been made.

(vi) NOCs from other regulatory agencies such as SPCB etc. are not a pre-requisite for considering application for environmental clearance.

The environmental clearance process comprises of four stages, namely, Stage (1) Screening; Stage (2) Scoping; Stage (3) Public Consultation and Stage (4) Appraisal.

Screening refers scrutiny of category ‘B’ projects seeking prior environmental clearance made in Form-1 by the concerned State Level Expert Appraisal Committee for determining whether or not the project requires further environmental studies for preparation of EIA for its appraisal depending upon the nature and location specificity of the project.

Scoping refers to the process by which the EAC in the case of Category ‘A’ projects or activities, and SEAC in the case of Category ‘B1’ projects or activities determine detailed and comprehensive TORs addressing all the relevant environmental concerns for the preparation of EIA report.

Public Consultation refers to the process by which the concerns of local affected persons and others who have plausible stake in the environmental impacts of the project or activity are ascertained.

Appraisal means the detailed scrutiny by the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee of the application and other documents submitted by the applicant for grant of environmental clearance.

The EAC is a multi disciplinary sectoral appraisal committee comprising of various subject matter experts for appraisal of sector specific projects. The EAC is the recommendatory body. Based on the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee, environmental clearance is accorded or rejected to the project by MoEF&CC.

The timelines prescribed in the Notification for various stages of EC are: 60 days specified for prescribing the TORs; 45 days for public consultation; 60 days for appraisal; and 45 days thereafter for communicating the decision to project proponent.

An application seeking prior environmental clearance in all cases has to be made in the prescribed Form 1 and Form 1A(if applicable), as provided in the EIA Notification, 2006, alongwith a copy of pre-feasibility project report. In case of construction projects or activities(item 8 of the Schedule), in addition to Form 1 and the Supplementary Form 1A, a copy of the Conceptual Plan is to be provided in place of pre-feasibility project report.

The MoEF&CC has mandated online submission of applications for Terms of Reference(TORs) and Environment Clearance (EC) w.e.f. 1st July, 2014, with the objective to increase transparency in system and reduce delays.

In this mode of submission of application, the proponent will get registered with the Ministry and will be provided with a unique number for further correspondence. The time period in receiving the application by post and human interface will be avoided. The moment the application is accepted by the Ministry, the same will be posted on the website and will be put in the public domain. In addition, for each step of environmental clearance process, the status of project would be regularly updated and the proponent would be able see the status of his project on line.

The sector specific manuals are guiding tools for the project proponents to prepare proper Environmental Impact Assessment Reports addressing all the related issues. These manuals are available on the Ministry’s Website.

The projects attracting both EIA Notification, 2006 and CRZ Notification, 2011, need not undergo two separate appraisal processes and do not require two separate clearances. Such projects will require only environmental clearance under the EIA Notification that will be considered based on the recommendations of the concerned State Coastal Zone Management Authority.

Project Proponent is required to submit a half yearly compliance report, twice in a year i.e. 1st June and 1st December, to MoEF/SEIAA and Regional offices of MoEF in hard and soft copies for monitoring of the project both during construction and operation phases. The Regional Offices of the Ministry monitor the compliance of environmental clearance conditions of various projects located in their jurisdiction.