NEW DELHI: In what may become a controversial decision, the Union Environment Ministry has come up with a ‘Star Rating’ system for state authorities granting environment clearance in least possible time. Environment law experts fear this could mean competing with each other in granting faster clearances without addressing environmental concerns properly.
The ministry has come up with criteria for rating the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) based on several factors — average number of days for granting EC, percentage of disposal of fresh terms of reference/ToR amendment proposals awaiting for more than 30 days, percentage of fresh EC awaiting for more than 105 days and an average number of days taken for accepting the proposals for ToR/EC and complaints reassessed by the SEIAAs.
The decision was after a meeting chaired by the cabinet secretary last year to discuss the action taken on “Ease of Doing Business” and there was a discussion regarding the ranking of states based on the time taken to accord clearances. “It has been decided to incentivise the states through a Star Rating system, based on the efficiency and timelines in the grant of EC. This is intended as a mode of recognition and encouragement as well as for promoting improvements where needed,” said the ministry.
The rating for the SEIAA will be a dynamic process based on performance during the last six months. Data for a block of six months starting the first and last days of the block period will be considered. This will be updated at the end of every month. According to the ministry, the average time taken in the grant of EC has reduced considerably, to approximately 75 days as against the timeline of 105 days, prescribed in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.
The Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), an environmental law organization, said this will clear projects in the shortest possible time. “The order is in contrary to the environmental rule of law, violates article 21 and is an arbitrary exercise of power.”