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Centre extends tenure of environmental clearances

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    25th Apr, 2022

Context

Easing norms for infrastructure projects, the Union environment ministry has extended the tenure of environmental clearances (EC) granted for existing or new projects.

Analysis

The extended period

  • River valley projects: The EC for river valley projects will now have a 13 year validity.
  • Nuclear power projects: Nuclear power projects, or those involving the processing of nuclear fuel 15 years.
  • Others: Projects and activities other than the mining and river valley projects will have their EC valid for 10 years.

Rationale behind the move:

Explaining its rationale, the Ministry said in its gazette notification that nuclear power projects and hydropower projects had:

  • “high gestation” period due to “geological surprises
  • delays in forest clearance
  • land acquisition
  • local issues
  • rehabilitation and resettlement, etc

The above mentioned issues are often beyond the control of project proponents and in this context, the Central Government “deems it necessary” to extend the validity of Environmental Clearance (EC) for such projects.

For Example:

Mining leases are now granted for a period of fifty years but the Environment Clearance is valid for thirty years. The Central Government deems it necessary to align the validity of mining ECs which is currently permissible up to a maximum duration of thirty years, subject to review and appropriate environmental safeguards.

What is an Environmental Clearance (EC)?

  • An EC is a long-drawn process that is mandatory for projects beyond a certain size and often involves an environment impact assessment of a potential project and sometimes public hearings involving the local populace who might be affected by the project.
  • One of the conditions of an EC is that a project must begin construction in the period that it has been granted an EC and if unable, a fresh process must begin.
  • This leads to projects being financially unviable.

What is the process of granting EC?

The process of granting of environment clearance includes:

  • Specifying Terms of Reference (ToR)
  • Preparing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report
  • Holding Public Consultation

Importance of EIA:

  • EIA links environment with development for environmentally safe and sustainable development.
  • EIA provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
  • EIA enables the decision makers to analyse the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
  • EIA encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
  • EIA makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within the limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.
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