NEW DELHI: After a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found serious flaws in Centre’s environment clearance procedure, the union environment ministry has issued new directives for proper revalidation and comprehensive scrutinizing of applications that come for approvals.
The report, in March this year, had criticized the environment impact assessment procedure followed by the ministry, saying it has failed at every step in monitoring the conditions imposed to check damage to environment while granting the clearances.
“The CAG has carried out a performance audit of Impact Assessment (IA) Division and submitted a report on environment clearance and post-clearance monitoring. In this report a number of recommendations have been given for further streamlining the functioning of IA Division. In view of this, all member secretaries, directors, joint directors working in the IA Division are requested to adhere to (new) recommendations,” said a circular issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The directives call for revalidation of data with respect of grant of environment clearance on regular basis. Besides, it says that while scrutinizing the impact assessment reports, officials may ensure that they are as per the Terms of Reference, comply with the generic structure, baseline data is accurate and concerns raised during the public hearing are adequately addressed. Public hearing is mandatory before the ministry takes a call on granting approval to the project in particular area.
“The environment impact assessment reports should clearly mention the cost of activities under environment management plan and environment status report along with the timelines for their implementation. The environment clearance conditions should be more specific for the area to be developed under Green Belt and species to be planted in consultation with forest and agriculture department,” said the directives.
The national auditor had also criticized delays caused at every step in granting environment clearances to infrastructure projects and that the ministry had not penalized even a single project for violation of EC conditions.
To cut down on such anomalies, the ministry has said categorically that while prescribing the condition of environment clearance, the officials should mention installation of monitoring stations and frequency of monitoring of various environment parameters in respect of air, surface water, groundwater and noise among others.