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Environmental body wonders why is Gujarat govt refusing to send 1,700 projects to Centre for eco-clearance

By Our Representative
In a fresh move, Gujarat’s top environmental body Paryavaran Mitra has wondered why is the Gujarat government reluctant to send more than 1,700 projects to the Government of India for environmental clearance pending delay in the formation of the State-level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) of the Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). Saying that the delay has stalled implementation of these projects, most of which are of small scale nature, Paryavaran Mitra said, the law is very clear that in case SEAC is not formed, projects should be sent to the Centre.
Quoting from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006, para 4 (iii), Paryavaran Mitra has said, “In the absence of a duly constituted SEIAA or SEAC, a category ‘B’ project shall be treated as a Category ‘A’ project.” Category ‘B’ projects are those do not require any environmental clearance from the Centre and could be cleared at the state-level committees. They are mostly projects which are assessed as not creating a high level of environmental impact. Only category ‘A’ projects are sent to the Government of India for clearance.
In all, 1,739 projects are pending clearance because of an eight-month delay in the formation of the SEAC. The Gujarat government delayed sending application to Government of India for SEAC’s formation by six months. Mahesh Pandya, director, Paryavaran Mitra, in letter to senior officials of the Gujarat government, including state environment secretary HK Dash and member-secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), Hardik Shah, a copy of which was sent to the Government of India’s ministry of forests and environment (MoEF), has further quoted from the EIA notification as substantiate his point on why it is mandatory for all projects to get environmental clearance.
The notification says: “All projects or activities included as Category ‘B’ in the Schedule, including expansion and modernization of existing projects or activities, or change in product mix, but excluding those which fulfill the General Conditions (GC) stipulated in the Schedule, will require prior environmental clearance from the State/Union territory Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). The SEIAA shall base its decision on the recommendations of a State or Union territory level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) as to be constituted for in this notification.”
Pandya insists, “In view of the above, the state government should have informed MoEF about delay in application and requested MOEF to started appraisal of Category B projects by treating it as category A project from the time the tenure of last SEAC was over in accordance to EIA notification. In the state where development is of prime importance, the state government has taken this issue very lightly. Here small entrepreneurs are the victim who cannot start their project because of negligence of the state government.”
Giving details of the delay in the formation of SEAC, Pandya said, “SEAC, which is advisory committee of the SEIAA, is in the process of being formed. Normally, it entertains environmental clearance applications related to category ‘B’ projects. The last SEAC committee of Gujarat was formed on July 23, 2010, whose tenure ended on July 22, 2013, which means Gujarat does not have its SEAC committee for 8 months. Almost 1,739 projects, most of them small enterprises, have remained without being cleared till December 3, 2013. Failure to form SEAC happened because there was delay in sending application by the Gujarat government to form SEAC. Instead of sending application early last year, it was sent in November 2013, four months after the former SEAC committee’s term ended.”
Facts about so many projects are pending clearance came to light following a Right to Information (RTI) application, filed by senior activist Kirit Rathod. It revealed that the Gujarat government has refused to form SEAC, which is supposed to provide environmental clearance to category ‘B’ projects not requiring Government of India nod, and as many as 1,739 projects remained without being cleared since July 2013, when the former SEAC’s three-year term expired.
The first SEAC of Gujarat was formed, under Central environmental law in June 2007, whose term ended in June 2010. In July 2010, the second SEAC was formed. Ever since it was formed, according to environmental experts, Gujarat government considered it as a “convenient body”, which could ensure clearances at the prompting of the government. “The situation reached such a point that the Gujarat government asked SEAC to provide environmental clearance to the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar after it began being implemented”, Pandya told Counterview.

Comments

Unknown said…
Superb work done by Paryavaran mitra
Anthony said…
Dear Mr Mahesh Pandya,
thank you for this great informative post. Maybe you can help me further: I am looking for the SEAC and SEIAA members who were appointed between 2010-2013 (as on the website of SEIAA Gujarat they show only the names of the first members)?

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