Feb 23, 2022

Central Vista Project: The requirement of Environmental Clearance

The Supreme Court has granted approval for the multi-crore Central Vista project which aims at redeveloping India’s power corridor, including a new Parliament building, a common Central Secretariat, and a renovated Rajpath stretching from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.


The Court held that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change gave proper and legal environmental clearance for the project.


What is the law on Environmental Clearance? 

Indian law introduced the requirement of environmental clearance in 2006 through a government notification. Obtaining environmental clearance involves conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), a study to analyse and predict how a proposed industrial project/activity will affect the environment. 


The importance of EIA and Environmental Clearance

Conducting an EIA ensures that a proposed industrial project is approved only after a proper inspection and after considering all the harmful consequences on the environment that can result from the project. The government can restrict certain areas in which industrial operations or processes cannot be carried out, or can be carried out only after fulfilling certain conditions to safeguard the environment.


Categorization of industrial projects

All industrial projects and activities are broadly categorized into two categories – Category ‘A’ and Category ‘B’, based on their spatial extent, potential impact on human health, and natural and man made resources.


Category ‘A’ projects require prior environmental clearance from the Central Government’s Ministry, based on the recommendations of an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).


Category ‘B’ projects require prior environmental clearance from the State/Union territory Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), based on the recommendations of a State or Union territory level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC).


When should one apply for Environmental Clearance?

A person should apply for environmental clearance after identifying the prospective site for the project and before starting the construction activity.


What is the approval process for getting Environmental Clearance?

The environmental clearance process for new industrial projects involves a maximum of four stages, all of which may not apply to particular cases. These four stages are: 

  • Stage 1 (Screening): For Category ‘B’ projects, the SEAC will examine the Environmental Clearance application to decide whether the project requires further environmental studies for an EIA. .  
  • Stage 2 (Scoping): The concerned Appraisal Committee will prepare ‘Terms of Reference’ to address all relevant environmental concerns for preparing an EIA Report for the project. The terms will be communicated to the applicant. In case the application is rejected, the reasons for the decision will be communicated to the applicant. 
  • Stage 3 (Public Consultation): This stage takes into account the concerns of local affected persons and others who have a potential stake in the environmental impacts of the project. However, public consultation is not required for certain projects such as those concerning national defence and security. 

Stage 4 (Appraisal): Finally, the concerned Appraisal Committee will examine the application and other documents like the Final EIA Report, outcome of the public consultations including public hearing proceedings etc. The Committee will then make categorical recommendations to the regulatory authority either for granting Environmental Clearance on stipulated terms and conditions, or rejecting the application with reasons. The regulatory authority will consider the Committee’s recommendations and convey its decision to the applicant.