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Amendment of EIA rules

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Environment: Environmental impact assessment


Source: Indian Express

Context:  The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has notified amendment to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Rules

Changes notified:

  • Exempted highway projects of strategic and defence importance: Any project which is 100 km from the Line of Control, among other locations, will be exempted from an environmental clearance before construction.
    • Impact: It will do away with the need for green clearance for the construction of the controversial Char Dham project, ( connectivity to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri shrines)
  • Exemption to the thermal power plant: Thermal power plants up to 15 MW based on biomass or non-hazardous municipal solid waste using auxiliary fuel such as coal, lignite or petroleum products up to 15 per cent have also been exempted.
  • Ports which exclusively deal in fish handling, and cater to small fishermen, will be exempted from environmental clearance.
  • Other projects exempted are Toll plazas that need more width for the installation of toll collection booths, and expansion activities in existing airports without an increase in the airport’s existing area.



Significance of EIA for Developmental Projects in India:

  • Make all the stakeholders aware of the environmental and socio-economic impact of the project
  • Facilitates a basis for policy decisions: EIA provides the impact assessment well before the project is implemented.
  • Helps to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects
  • EIA encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan
  • Protects the biodiversity of the environment by suggesting alternative safe project designs and methods.
  • Simplifies the technical issues: EIA produces an environmental management plan and summary for the non-tech general public.


Environment Impact Assement

EIA notification 2020 and its impact:

  • Public Consultation: Reduced to max 40 days and only 20 days (from 30days) for submitting a response
    • This will help speed up the process of EIA. However, it may give very little time for Tribal and forest dwellers who are not aware of technical details or have means to access it.
  • More Discretionary power for Government: Power to declare ‘economically sensitive areas’ without a public hearing as well as give any project ‘strategic tag’ (so no EIA obligation)
    • This is important for the clearance of strategic projects related to defence and national security as well as projects deemed too important for the nation.
    • However, there is fear of misuse of this clause for political or economic reasons to circumvent EIA
  •   Post-Facto-project clearance:
    • This will enable ease of doing business and reduce bureaucratic delays. But it is a violation of the fundamental principles of environmental jurisprudence and is contrary to both the precautionary principle as well as the need for sustainable development.
  • An extended period of Environmental clearance: From 30years to 50 years
    • However, it raises the risk of irreversible environmental, health, and social consequence.
  • Baseline data: No need to cover all the seasons in a year.
    • This may make EIA less reliable and not reveal the full impact of EIA
  • Report Issues: reduced from once every six months to once every year.
    • This will dilute the scrutiny and it may be late before any mitigation measures could be taken for highlighted project impact.

EIA needs to provide the balance between ‘ease of doing businesses and maintaining environmental sustainability. In this context, an Independent EIA Authority can be set up for fair and objective decisions. Also, a centralized data bank for storing information and providing access to local communities and the general public to all the aspects of projects.


Related News:

Karnataka government has opposed the draft notification of Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) in western Ghats.

  • ESA in the Western Ghats was proposed by Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan Report.
  • Karnataka has only 20% forest cover (against a national target of 33%)


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Practice Questions

Q. Environmental Impact Assessment studies are increasingly undertaken before a project is cleared by the Government. Discuss the environmental impacts of coal-fired thermal plants located at coal pitheads. ( UPSC 2014)