The environmental clearance process comes under the Environmental Protection Act of 1986 provisions. When developmental activities are associated with the risk of environmental degradation when the development project is executed, there is more possibility of loss of nature, such as wildlife, rehabilitation and resettlement of local habitat, etc. It also leads to pollution of water, air, soil, noise pollution and much more. Based on this, environmental degradation does not mean no one should stop the development. This would be the significant challenge of modern society: we should go for maximum growth with minimum environmental damage.
The environment clearance assessment assesses the probable environmental damage due to proposed development activity. This regulation is utilized worldwide to conclude whether one should go for the project, and it will be helpful to check the local environmental degradation. The regulatory authority responsible in India for prior ecological clearance is the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India. The clearance of a project has been coordinated as per the provision of the EIA notification 2006 issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) & Climate Change (CC), exercising the powers confirmed by the Environment Protection Act 1986.
Process of Environmental Clearance
There are eight categories, and obtaining prior environmental clearance from the regulatory authority is mandatory.
- Mining, extraction of natural resources and power generation
- Primary processing
- Materials production
- Material processing
- Manufacturing and fabrication
- Service sector
- Physical infrastructure, including environmental services
- Building construction and area development project
The national-level regulatory authority for environmental clearance has two categories: “A” & “B”. The “A” category project has been constituted at the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) & Climate Change (CC) level. In contrast, for the “B” category project, the regulatory authorities, the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), have been constituted at various state levels. These authorities will base their decision on the recommendations of the expected appraisal committee (ECA) at the national level as the state-level expert appraisal committee (SEAC) at the state level, which is followed as per the previous EIA notification. Based on regulatory authority, the EAC/SEAC will comprise experts from various fields who can foresee possible environmental threats from a particular activity.
The following 6 (six) stages have been mentioned in the EIA notification for environmental clearance:
2) Screening. (Only for “B” category projects)
3) Preparing the EIA Report
4) Making an application and (public) consultation.
5) Decision making
Once a project is identified for clearance, the scoping stage involves identifying and assessing potential environmental impacts and formulating Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study. This activity of the issue of TOR is further subdivided into various sub-activities for tracking. The TOR shall be conveyed to the proponent within 60 days from the submission date of form I or IA.
This initial stage involves screening projects to determine if they require environmental clearance or fall under exempted categories. It would be helpful to check whether the project needs further ecological studies to prepare an environmental impact assessment (EIA) before granting a prior environmental clearance.
Preparing the EIA Report:
The EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) Report gathers a few significant venture parts, including the project description, the appraisal of its environmental and social effects, moderation gauges, and related administration and monitoring plans.
Making an Application and (Public) Consultation:
The venture proponent applies for environmental clearance with the MOEF if it falls under the Project A category or the state government assumes it collapses under the Project B category. The application structure is submitted with an EIA report, EMP, subtleties of public review and NOC allowed by the state regulators. This part includes the public consultation process, where partners and the public are offered a chance to give feedback, concerns, and ideas regarding the project’s possible environmental impacts.
Given the appraisal, the regulatory authority, for example, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) or State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), settles on giving or dismissing the environmental clearance. The choice is communicated to the project proponent.
Means the detailed scrutiny of the application, the final EIA report submitted by the proponent, and the objections and suggestions raised during public consultation. The committee can also call the proponent or his representative for clarification.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The EIA Notification may be revised periodically, and the specific stages and processes may be subject to change based on the prevailing regulations and guidelines.
Significance of Public Hearing in Environmental Clearance
Public hearings assume a considerable part of the time spent on environmental clearance.
Here are a few central issues featuring the meaning of public hearings in environmental clearance:
- Transparency and responsibility.
- Public Cooperation.
- Information dissemination.
- Identification of impacts.
- Consistency with legal necessities.
Transparency and Responsibility:
Public hearings allow members of the general society to voice their interests, suppositions, and ideas concerning proposed projects that might have natural implications. They ensure transparency in the decision-making process and consider the task advocates responsible for addressing public worries.
Public hearings permit impacted networks, nearby occupants, and partners to participate effectively in decision-making. They offer them a chance to communicate their perspectives, share neighbourhood information, and contribute to the evaluation of possible environmental impacts.
Public hearings act as a way to spread information about the proposed project, its possible environmental impacts, and relief measures. It helps bring issues to light in general society and empowers them to pursue informed choices and give significant feedback.
Identification of Impacts:
Public hearings provide a stage for identifying and evaluating the proposed project’s potential environmental and social effects. The general population’s worries help recognize influences that might have been overlooked during the initial assessment.
Public hearings involve discourse and conversation between project advocates, administrative specialists, and the general population. They consider the goal of conflicts, discuss moderation measures, and find a balance between improvement needs and environmental concerns.
Consistency with Legal Necessities:
Public hearings are often a legal necessity in the environmental clearance process. They guarantee consistency with environmental regulations and guidelines that order public cooperation in decision-making processes.
In general, public hearings in the environmental clearance process promote transparency, public support, and informed decision-making. They help shield the environment, address public worries, and guarantee sustainable development.
Approve or Rejection of Prior Environmental Clearance
The regulatory authority will consider the appraisal committee’s suggestions and pass its choice to the proponent in no less than 45 days from the date the appraisal committee receives the proposal. The regulatory authority shall accept the appraisal committee’s suggestion in typical conditions. In a conflict, the regulatory authority can return the proposal to the expert appraisal committee for revaluation within 45 days of receipt.
The expert appraisal committee will re-examine the proposal. It will send its perspectives to the regulatory team within 60 days of receipt. The choice of the regulatory authority (in the wake of thinking about the perspectives of the expert appraisal committee) will be conclusive and imparted to the proponent in 30 days or less. Suppose the proponent has yet to be imparted the choice by the regulatory authority within the specified period referenced. In that case, the applicant is allowed to continue as though the environmental clearance has been conceded/prevented, according to the last proposal of the expert appraisal committee.
Overall, India’s environmental clearance process is a thorough and organized system aimed at surveying and reducing the potential environmental impacts of projects. It includes stages like screening, scoping, public consultation, decision-making, appraisal, application, and public consultation. The interaction guarantees that projects are assessed for environmental implications and that fundamental measures are taken to limit adverse effects. Following this interaction, India aims to find harmony between development and the environment.