The Delhi High Court has asked the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to take fresh permission for cutting trees for constructing a flyover, after the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) informed the court that the NHAI’s earlier clearances have expired.
What is the law on Environmental Clearance?
Environmental clearance is a procedure to get government clearance for industrial projects which impact the environment. It involves conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is a study to analyse and predict how a proposed industrial project/activity will affect the environment, and getting approval from pollution authorities, etc.
Conducting an EIA ensures that the government approves a project only after conducting a proper inspection and considering all the harmful consequences on the environment that can result from the project. The government can restrict industrial operations or processes in certain areas or allow such activities only if they fulfill certain conditions to safeguard the environment.
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. The environmental clearance is generally valid for seven years, but this can vary depending on the project.
How does the government categorize 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).
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 and communicate this to the applicant In case the application is rejected, the committee will communicate the reasons for the decision 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.