NEW DELHI: In yet another move aimed at easing environmental clearances for infrastructure projects, the Ministry of Environment and Forest has come up with standardized environmental clearance (EC) conditions for 25 sectors to bring in ‘uniformity’. The ministry said the standard EC conditions shall be considered by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) at the time of appraisal of proposals. After due diligence, the Committee can modify, delete and add conditions based on the project-specific requirements, it said.
“To bring uniformity on stipulated terms and conditions across the projects and sectors and as a general guidance to the EAC as well as project proponents, the ministry has prepared standard conditions for 25 sectors,” said a ministry official. But, the move is being seen as an effort by the NDA government, which is in its last leg of its five-year rule, to further relax norms for expediting clearances of projects such as pharmaceutical and chemical industries, integrated iron and steel plants, aluminium refining, asbestos-based industries and cement plants. Some of the most polluting industries are in these sectors.
In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had criticized the then UPA government for slowing growth by delaying project clearances. He had attacked the then environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan as a “roadblock” minister. Last week, Modi launched PARIVESH (Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window Hub), a single-window online system for project clearances and tracking.
Since it assumed office in 2014, the NDA government has been relaxing several green norms to expedite clearance processes in the country. The Centre has launched the online project application and the clearance process of projects to cut down on time needed by the environment ministry to approve projects.
The ministry also eased norms for approvals for linear projects such as road, pipeline as they are important for the country’s development. The environment ministry appraises projects under the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006, imposing certain restrictions and prohibitions on new project or activities based on their potential environmental impacts. The process includes screening, scoping, public consultation and appraisal by the EAC, which decides the fate of a project.
In 2015, standard Terms of Reference, for conducting environment studies, for 38 infrastructure sectors
Despite protests from green activists, the MoEF maintained all norms were being followed.