Sunday, January 18, 2009

Move on to exempt projects from EIA

Deccan Herald - Move on to exempt projects from EIA
Move on to exempt projects from EIA
DH News Service, New Delhi:

The Prime Minister’s Office on Friday proposed a new amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), 2006 granting exemption to “certain projects” from environmental clearance for the next three years in states where no EIA authorities have been formed so far.

But the move is expected to trigger reactions from environmentalists, who claim that all sorts of industrial projects may be allowed under the garb of this notification without caring a hoot for the well being of the environment.

“In view of the delay being caused to expansion and modernisation projects due to several states not having constituted their EIA authorities yet, it is proposed to exempt a certain category of projects for up to three years,” the PMO said.

“Since the nature of the exemption was not specified, anything from power plant and paper mills to collieries and foundries may be allowed without the green clearance. The notification is an anti-thesis to the spirit of the EIA,” activist Leo Saldanha from Bangalore-based Environment Support Group told Deccan Herald.

“First you create an EIA, which states can not implement because of the draconian nature of the law. Then you bypass the EIA process arguing that no authorities have been set up. It’s like abandoning the entire environmental regulatory system,” he said.

Last July Kerala had rejected EIA questioning the real purpose of the assessment system. Tamil Nadu too had taken up the issue back in 2006.

“Deliberate expulsion of the specificity (in the list of projects to be exempted) means anything can get through,” said Saldanha who worked on the EIA norms since the last eight years.

Till the time of filing the report, the detailed notification is neither available on the website of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest nor on the PMO site.

Projects for modernisation and expansion using non-polluting technologies and processes which do not increase the pollution load are exempted from the purview of the EIA Notification.

Biomass based power plants up to 50MW capacity and prospecting of minerals are proposed to be exempted from the purview of the EIA notification.

Officials, however, claim that the notification aimed at improving the environmental vigil by making it compulsory for project proponents to make public the terms of the environmental clearance. They are to insert advertisement in at least two local dailies giving the details of the terms and condition behind the eco-clearance. Also local administrations – the municipality of panchayat – have to be kept in the loop.

The activists argue that these options are already available in the EIA norms and the new notification is nothing but an “eyewash” to grant bigger industrial and infrastructure projects with foreign funding without the necessary eco-clearance.

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