ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT
All developmental activities use natural resources as raw material and the wastes generated are disposed into different environmental media. The signs of stress on the scarce natural resources are evident from the deteriorating air quality, soil degradation, polluted rivers and streams and in the general status of environment in various regions. It is now well recognized that, for sustainable development and optimal use of natural resources, environmental considerations are required to be integrated in planning, designing and implementation of development projects. The envisaged benefits from development projects cannot be fully realized unless they are environmentally and socially sound and sustainable.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the proven management tools for incorporating environmental concerns in development process and also in improved decision making. The growing awareness, over the years, on environmental protection and sustainable development has further given emphasis on sound environmental management practices through preparation of Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) for minimizing the impacts from developmental activities.
The program of EIA, in vogue in the Ministry for the last two decades was initiated with the appraisal of River Valley Projects. The scope of appraisal was subsequently enlarged to cover other sectors like industrial projects, thermal power plants, mining schemes and infrastructure projects. To give legislative status to the procedure of impact assessment, EIA was made mandatory since January 1994 for thirty categories of development activities.
Expert Committees and status of appraisal of development projects: Under the provisions of EIA Notification of January1994, various Expert Committees have been constitutedfor different sectors for appraisal of projects receivedfor environmental clearance. These Committees werereconstituted in February 2002. Table–7 and Table–8reveal sector wise details of appraisal of projects.
Appraisal of Ex-post facto projects Industrial Projects: A total of 249 proposals were received from defaulting units seeking ex-post facto environmental clearance by the final deadline of March 31, 2003. Preliminary appraisal was undertaken for all such proposal to ensure adequacy of documents received.
Studies and Research Projects: To facilitate formulation of policies and evolveguidelines in various development sectors, studies havebeen undertaken in specific areas. Progress on some ofthe studies is reported below.
Streamlining of Clearance procedures
- Mining proposal involving major minerals with lease area more than five ha. in areas covered by the ARavalli Notification has been brought under the purview of EIA Notification, vide Gazette Notification No. S.O. 248(E) dated 28th February 2003.
- Widening and strengthening of existing canals with land acquisition up to a maximum of 20 meters (on both sides put together) along the existing alignments provided such canals do not pass through ecologically sensitive areas has been exempted from the purview of EIA Notification, vide Gazette Notification No. S.O. 506 (E) dated 7th May 2003.
- The distance criteria, which was 25 kms in case of reserved forests and ecologically sensitive areas, and 50 kms in case of interstate boundary has been reduced to 15 kms in both the cases as per Gazette Notification No. S.O. 891 (E) dated 4th August, 2003. As a result power projects of co-generation plants, captive power plants up to 250 MW (both
- coal and gas/ Naphtha based), coal based plants up to 500 MW using fluidized bed technology, coal based power plants up to 250 MW using conventional technology gas / naphtha based plants up to 500 MW and not falling within a critically polluted area; or within a radius of 15 kms of boundary of reserved forests, ecologically sensitive areas in any state can be considered and accorded environmental clearance by the state governments themselves.
Coastal Zone Management Plan: For the purpose of protecting the marine and coastalenvironment of India, the Government of India has issueda Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991, whichregulates developmental activities within 500 mts fromthe high tide line and the inter tidal region of the country.All 13 Coastal States / Union Territory Governmentshave prepared Coastal Zone Management Plansdemarcating ecologically sensitive areas, built up areasand rural regions. For the purpose of enforcing theprovision of the notification the Ministry has constituted National and 13 state level Coastal Zone Management Authorities.
The Ministry taking note of the experiences of other developed countries and lessons learnt from implementing the Coastal Regulation Zone notification 1991 for a decade and, further, keeping in view the socio-economic issues and developmental needs, the Ministry has embarked upon preparation of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plans.