Q. What is EIA?
A. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important process for evaluating the likely environmental impact of a proposed project. It is a process whereby people’s views are taken into consideration for granting final approval to any developmental project or activity. It is basically, a decision-making tool to decide whether the project should be approved or not.
Q. What does EIA process involves?
A. The EIA process involves:
Screening: This stage decides whether projects need a full or partial assessment study.
Scoping: This stage decides which impacts are necessary to be assessed. This is done based on legal requirements, international conventions, expert knowledge and public engagement. This stage also finds out alternate solutions.
Assessment & evaluation of impacts and development of alternatives: this stage predicts and identifies the environmental impacts of the proposed project and also elaborates on the alternatives.
EIA Report: In this reporting stage, an environmental management plan (EMP) and also a non-technical summary of the project’s impact is prepared for the general public. This report is also called the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Decision making: the decision on whether the project is to be given approval or not and if it is to be given, under what conditions.
Monitoring, compliance, enforcement and environmental auditing: monitoring whether the predicted impacts and the mitigation efforts happen as per the EMP.
Q.Is it statutorily backed?
A. Yes, Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.
Q. What are the provisions of Draft EIA notification?
A. The draft notification is issued under the powers vested in the central government under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to take all such measures for “protecting and improving the quality of the environment.
The key points of proposed draft are:
- It shortens the period of public consultation hearings to a maximum of 40 days.
- It reduces from 30 to 20 days the time provided for the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.
- It also allows the declaration of some areas as “economically sensitive areas” without a public hearing or environmental clearance, and several “red” and “orange”-classified toxic industries could now operate as close as 0-5 km from a Protected Area in “callous disregard” for forests.
- The increased validity of the environment clearances for mining projects (50 years versus 30 years currently) and river valley projects (15 years versus 10 years currently) raises the risk of irreversible environmental, social and health consequences on account of the project remaining unnoticed for long.
- Bypassing EIA Process Through the draft notification, the central government gets the power to categorise projects as “strategic.” Once a project is considered as strategic, the draft notification states that no information related to such projects shall be placed in the public domain. Violations can only be reported suomotu by the project proponent, or by a government authority, appraisal committee, or regulatory authority. This is against the principles of natural justice.
- Further, the draft notification states that the new construction projects up to 1,50,000 square metres (instead of the existing 20,000 square metres) do not need “detailed scrutiny” by the Expert Committee, nor do they need EIA studies and public consultation.
Q. What all are the importance of EIA?
A. Importance of EIA
- It links environment with development for environmentally safe and sustainable development.
- It provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimise the adverse impact of developmental projects.
- It makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within the limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem
- It enables the decision makers to analyse the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
- It encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.