Environment Appellate Authority finds fault with EIA Notification

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New Delhi, Mar 12 (UNI) Agreeing with strong objections raised by environmentalists and NGOs against some of the provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006, the National Environment Appellate Authority has suggested to government to modify the law to make it more meaningful.

The Authority wants that the process of impact assessment of any project should be carried out by government appointed independent agencies instead of those selected by the project proponents themselves.

''We have told the government that in the absence of any independent assessment of the environmental impact of any building, industry or any other project, the whole exercise was being rendered meaningless,'' a senior member of the Authority told UNI.

He said that though under the present arrangements, the terms of reference of the project were to be decided by the Environment Appraisal Committees (EAC) at the state and the central level, but the information for finalisation of ToR was being provided by the project proponent, which makes the whole exercise very questionable.

''So, we have recommended to the Ministry to modify the rules and go in for government-appointed independent assessment committees, so that no room was left for any manipulation, ''he said.

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, brought in 2006, provides for appraisal of the impact that a project will have on the environment. EIA reports are submitted by the project proponents and assessed by the multi-disciplinary Expert Appraisal Committees constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the purpose.

Though, the new notification showed some improvement over the previous one, it has left much to be desired of and failed to satisfy those concerned with environment.

The major difference in the new EIA notification from the earlier one is that it attempts to decentralise power to the State government.

Under the previous arrangement, all the projects under schedule 1 went to the Central government for environmental clearance. But under the new Notification, it is the states that have been given the power to clear a large number of projects. The expert panel, the Environment Appraisal Committees (SEAC), will be formed at the state level to help in the exercise.

Though the provision on the face of it looks good, but it was likely to be misused by state government that are pursuing industrialisation, the NGOs fear. Moreover, there is no mention of any monitoring of state level projects by the central government.

There is also no compulsory provision for public consultation. The consultation will be done but conducted, as earlier, at the end of the environment clearance process where there was very little room for the public to modify the project.

Even this inadequate consultation could be foregone if the authorities feel that the situation was conducive for holding public hearing.

Further, the consultation process has been divided into public hearing for local people and submission in writing from other interested parties, whicn means that NGOs and other civil society organisations will not be able to take part in the public hearing process.

Moreover, if the EAC does not decide the ToR within the prescribed time, the project proponents can go ahead with their own ToR.

The environmentalsits also find fault witn the notification for not providing for any post monitoring, a very important part of the entire EIA process.

It was in view of all these that National Environment Appellate Authority wants that the impact assessement should be carried out by independent agencies to fulfill the objectives of the EIA process.

The first Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification was brought in 1994 to address the concerns of sustainability in the development process.


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