Skip to main content

Environmental clearance: Seeking "additional information" will delay projects, Centre to expert committees

Counterview Desk
In a fresh concession to corporate sector developers across India, a new office memorandum, one the many in a series issues by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change, has told Indian and state environmental authorities not to seek any additional information before providing environmental clearance. The memorandum states, “it has been brought to its notice” that Expert Appraisal Committees (EACs, Central authorities, giving environmental clearance to bigger projects) and State Expert Appraisal Committees (SEACs, giving environmental nod to smaller projects) have been seeking “additional studies which do not form a part of terms of reference”, adding, the authorities should stop the practice.
Pointing out that this “delays the whole process and is against the spirit of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification (2006)”, the memorandum says, EACs and SEACs should address “all issues” at the primary Scoping Clearance stage itself, basing themselves on "information submitted by the project proponent". In fact, it insists, the meeting of project proponents with EACs should ensure that “no fresh issues are raised later”, and that additional information/ additional studies are asked for only in extreme, “inevitable” cases.
The title of the memorandum itself suggests what the Centre wants -- "Seeking additional studies by EACs/ SEACs during appraisal of project beyond the Terms of Reference (ToRs) prescribed under EIA Notification 2006."  Taking strong exception to the approach, two senior environmentalists of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), Parineeta Dandekar and Himanshu Thakkar, have said in a recent article that it as yet another “pro-industry and anti-environment” order, adding, “Drop by drop, such orders and circulars are making it impossible to rely on the original environmental acts and notifications.”
Suggesting that the new memorandum appears to have been “brought out due to pressure from project-related ministries and industrial lobby”, SANDRP has said, even now “EACs and SEACs were asking for additional studies in very rare cases”. In fact, “EACs, like the one on river valley and hydropower projects, have a clearance record of 100 per cent and rarely ask for additional studies.” Given this factor, they wonder, “So what was the need for this specific memorandum?”
Qualifying it as a “regressive step”, SANRDP says, “In reality, the very need for asking such additional studies or information is due to severely compromised information provided by the proponents themselves at the Scoping Clearance stage. Looking at the environmental clearance process, it seems hiding information, providing false information, misleading the EAC and even committing blatant violations has become the norm rather than an exception.”
It adds, “In very rare cases, when this is exposed before EAC, they have asked for additional studies -- instead of taking any strong action, for example rejecting the application or postponing decision till the studies are done, as per the law and prudent decision making norms.” In fact, the memorandum “effectively” states that EACs should “process applications based on any shoddy information they receive and should close their eyes even when critical issues surface later in the process”.
The environmentalists say, “Rather than passing such memorandums, the ministry needs to ensure that all the steps of EC process are complied with. That’s not the case today and that’s a more pressing problem than additional studies. It is this non-compliance that is damaging the spirit of EIA Notification 2006 about which the Ministry seems to be least concerned. There is no need for any additional memorandums to fix these issues, only real concern for spirit of EIA Notification and other related laws.“
According to them, “By ordering that no additional information should be sought after TOR stage, the ministry is deriding the importance of public hearing which take place as a part of the EIA study, after TORs are granted. By discouraging additional studies, it is suggesting that even public consultations are immaterial. No more studies, after TOR please!” They qualify it as “an insult of the public consultation process which should form the heart of appraisal and assessment process”.

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

Rejoinder: Worldwide anxiety post-Fukishima is fading, slowly and steadily

By Dr KS Parthasarathy* 
EAS Sarma, former Secretary, Government of India (GoI) in a letter addressed to the Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), GoI, stated that, there has been "worldwide anxiety about the consequences of catastrophic nuclear accidents, either due to manual lapses or natural calamities" (Counterview, December 2, 2018). "In the recent years, globally, the pace of growth of nuclear power has escalated in leaps and bounds, causing a great deal of public concern and apprehension."

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).