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India’s Environment Ministry introduced a ranking for States to improve environmental clearances efficiency. But what are we afraid of?

India’s Environment Ministry introduced a ranking for States to improve environmental clearances efficiency. But what are we afraid of?

India's Environment Ministry has introduced a 'ranking' for States for the efficiency in environmental clearances but what makes us afraid?

Illicit conversion of forest lands and other natural resources is causing a commotion around the globe. Due to rising global population, nearly one-third of the world’s forests have been lost.

This increase will continue at least for the next 15-years, increasing by 15% to 8.4 billion. This will mean that per capita consumption will only rise, especially in fast-growing, already stressed economies.

The United Nations has set targets and incentives to reduce and balance the emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, and other activities.

The COP26 inferences suggest that Nature-derived solutions are the best of all possible methods of conserving a future humanity on the same planet that is nearing comatose.

The Indian Environment Ministry has adopted a policy to give incentives and ranking to Indian States based upon how quickly an environmental clearance is granted to the respective infrastructure projects.

This has drawn criticism from around the world because it can fast-track a critical process that requires extensive and inclusive study.

An Expert asserts:It can lead to a situation where you don’t have enough time to make the right decisions. It can also lead to artificial competition between states which could result in industries moving to states with quicker environmental clearance.

The country was shocked at how the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as it was called, had been altered. This was later defended by the apex court. It is an essential component in ensuring that projects’ ecological costs are minimized.

It can be expected that the States will speedily approve the projects, rather than conducting thorough investigations, as they seek more stars and support for business.

Sometimes, it is crucial to visit evensites in order to better understand the risks and their consequences.

The Environment Ministry responded to criticisms by clarifying that this ranking was not intended to speed clearances but to accelerate decision making and eliminate procrastination.

The Ministry has attributed the submission of digital applications as a reason for reducing the time required to approve the project. It does not matter how many applications are submitted or how many businesses or industrial sectors they have to deal with.

This is what experts claim: It is clear that the EIA process is completely regulated. The companies employ the consulting firms that produce the reports. This pressure to speed, efficiency, and incentivization will skew environmental governance and make the environment pro-business.

This office memo (OM) from the ministry seems to support and facilitate the Governments larger commitment to Ease Of Doing Business.

How does a project get approved?

39 types of projects are required to be approved by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2006.

The Central government must approve any projects that are very large or could potentially affect forest land in category A.

Those under Project B are at the state’s discretion.

Category B covers a broad range of activities that include mining of minerals (limestone, and sand).bajri), metallurgical industries, hydroelectric power projects, cement plants, distillery, leather industry to even building and construction.

An approval is required by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, (SEIAA) for any infrastructure project that exceeds a certain size and that could significantly alter the natural environment. This authority is made up of State officials and independent environmental experts.

The state authorities continue their struggle with the lack of environmental specialists. Many of the decisions are made by bureaucrats rather than the environment experts.

Most of the projects submitted for approval have to get SEIAA approval. This includes activities such as building or construction, small industrial projects, small mining, and those that are less polluting.

Similar to previous announcements, a seven-pronged criteria was announced to rate SEIAAs. Transparency, efficiency, and accountabilityBased on which the states can earn up to eight points and a rating out of five stars.

How will this mechanism rank the State Authorities?

This rating process is done every six months and will award one point for six criteria and two for the remaining criteria.

Approval takes less time:One of these is the average number of days required to grant Environment Clearance.

If the time between project proposal and clearance is less than 80 days, states will receive two points (one more). States will get one point if they are completed within 105 days or less. States will only earn half a point if it takes between 105 and 120 calendar days.

Percentage of terms-of-reference (TOR):It is a collection of documents that the SEIAA has prepared and which outline the requirements for an accurate environmental impact assessment.

SEIAAs who can dispose of more TOR proposals than 90 percent will earn one point, while those who can dispose 80-90 percent will earn half a points and zero points for those who can clear less than 80 per cent.

Percentage of cases containing multiple information requestsSimply put, if additional details are obtained more than once, then the SEIAA will lose even more points.

Any SEIAA asking for such data will receive low marks, if not zero. The SEIAA can reject projects, which the OM cannot.An Environmentalist cries.

The rating guidelines state that if additional information is required in more than 30% of cases, zero points shall be awarded. One point will be awarded if more than 10% of cases have multiple requests for additional information.

See Also

Time it took to accept EC and TOR Also, the average time it takes to accept EC/TOR proposals will be used to assess the state’s environment authority. One point will be awarded to proposals that are accepted within five days.

Responsibility and accountabilityOne point may be awarded to authorities who are able address all complaints. Half of those who address 50 per cent or more will receive half.

Complaints less than 50% will not be taken seriously.

Percentage of site visits:Sometimes, the entire Environment Impact Assessment is dependent on understanding the site’s nature.

Ironically, SEIAAs will give SEIAAs a better mark if you conduct fewer site tours. Site visits of 10 percent or less will get you one point, while those that visit more than 20% of projects will get zero points.

According to the new declaration, sites with fewer visits will receive more marks.

A boost to ease of doing business or a hindrance to ecological screening?

It is easy to understand why the States Authorities have so many cases. They also have a variety of projects they must deliver and verify. It is possible to cause more social and environmental problems by attempting to undermine this important but difficult task.

The Alternative theory

Although efficiency in a system is desirable, it can also be detrimental to the quality of the system and the environment.

These parameters and their scores seem to be jeopardizing the need to monitor the environmental damage caused by core activities. It doesn’t encourage transparency, but it certainly discourages and destroys the very clarity that one can achieve.

It is also delusional to believe that a country or Ministry with fewer site visits or information requests can be more beneficial than the one that was created to save the environment.

Better would be for the environment ministry to work with the system to build trust and make sure that experts are available for better assessment and consultations.

We have discussed and determined time and again how business and environmental concern can be aligned, as well how economic and ecological prosperity lie dependent on each others.

While our country continues to display its sheer will in protecting the nature and making valuable strives in saving Earth, shouldn’t we be concerned if the policy in eloquence and in official papers appear incompatible to each other?

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