Monday’s introduction by the Ministry of Environment of a new ranking system for State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) was made. These authorities have been given powers to grant and consider environmental clearance.
According to the ministry, the ranking system, which includes the time required to give clearance, was introduced to encourage efficiency and transparency in the operation of SEIAAs without reducing any regulatory safeguards.
It is based upon the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA Notification 2006) and other guidelines issued by the ministry from the time to time.
The ministry said that no negative marking is being proposed for those who do not meet the criteria for ranking.
There are seven criteria to rank the SEIAA. One is the average number days required to grant environmental clearance (EC).
The EIA Notice provides a time frame of 105 Days for granting EC. This includes 60-days for appraisal and 45-days for decision by regulatory authority.
This criterion is designed to encourage SEIAAs’ efficiency and to ensure that they adhere to the EIA notification timeline.
“”’The SEIAAs that follow the timeline set out in the EIA Notification 2006 will be granted 1 mark. Even 0.5 marks will be granted to those who will make a decision within 105 to 120 days.
SEIAAs that make decisions in over 120 days do not have to reduce their mark, but they can get an extra mark if they take decisions within 80-105 days. It said that there is no negative marking for not meeting the criteria.
Other criteria include the percentage that the fresh term-of-reference (ToR) proposals are being disposed of within 30 days, the percentage of disposal EC/ EC amend proposals that have been awaiting more than 105 day and the percentage of cases in which more than one-time environmental design solutions (EDS), were sought.
Also, the average time it takes to accept proposals for ToR/EC, and complaints redressed through SEIAA, are all taken into consideration.
“The complaint redressal conditions have been added to increase accountability of the government agency to common man. All complaints must be addressed and not ignored. It said that there is no negative marking to be applied if the criteria are not met.
In February 2020, the ministry had notified that any new projects or activities should be referred to either the experts’ appraise committee (EAC), or the state expert appraisal committee (SEAC) by the Regulatory Authority within 30 calendar days of the date on which the application was received. This will allow the Regulatory Authority to recommend the specific ToR and the Standard ToR, if necessary.
If the regulatory authority fails to refer the matter the EAC/SEAC within 30 days of the date on which the application was made, a sector-specific Standard ToR will be issued online by the Regulatory Authority on the 30th day.
The Ministry has taken several steps to streamline the EC process, reduce the time it takes to grant clearances, including standard ToR for all expansion plans, online submissions and processing, standard ToR, and raising all queries at once, avoiding multiple EDS/ADS. It also stated that fortnightly EAC meetings are conducted.
(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.