After carrying out a set of amendments and proposing another set last week, the Union Environment Ministry on Wednesday carried out yet another set of changes to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006.
A major amendment among others is that the Centre will now exercise the power to assess and grant environmental clearance (EC) to the projects under national defence or security importance, instead of the state.
“All the projects in category ‘B’, relating to the national defence or strategic or security importance or those as notified by the Central government on account of exigencies such as pandemics, natural disasters or to promote environmentally friendly activities under national programmes or schemes or missions or such projects which are inordinately delayed beyond the stipulated timeline as laid down in the EIA notification and also meet the criteria as laid down in this regard from time to time, shall be considered at the Central level as category ‘B’ projects,” read the amendment notification.
As per the original EIA notification of 2006, the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) were constituted under relevant sections and sub-sections of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for implementation of the EIA Notification, 2006 at state level for exercising delegated powers to consider and grant ECs for all proposals under Category B (as mentioned above).
Stating that the SEIAAs have gained substantial experience over the past 15 years in the EC appraisal process and the process at the state level has also been made completely online through the PARIVESH portal for efficient and transparent disposal of EC proposals, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said: “The Central government deems it necessary to further de-centralise the EC process for facilitating clearances at state level.”
But category B projects being those related to defence or strategic importance have “significant element of security involvement” and yet are being appraised at the state level, the Ministry said, and added: “The Central government deems it necessary to be appraised centrally taking into account national security concerns.”
Citing relevant clauses, it also dispensed with the requirement of notice “in public interest” while carrying out the amendments in the EIA notification of September 14, 2006.
Earlier on April 14, the Environment Ministry had amended the EIA notification for extending validity of ECs to hydro-power and nuclear projects among others. The amendments include revising EC validity for hydropower projects – also termed as river valley projects – to 13 years (plus two years after consulting the Expert Appraisal Committee), 15 years for nuclear projects; 30 years for mining projects, extendable by 20 years and 10 years for other projects, such as townships.
Prior to that, on April 12, the Ministry had published a set of proposals to amend the same EIA notification seeking exemption of EC to several projects, including defence related/border areas projects, those up to 25 MW thermal plants based on biomass or expansion of terminal building of airport.