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Mumbai news: Centre tightens rules on surrender of environmental clearances| Mumbai news

Mumbai news: Centre tightens rules on surrender of environmental clearances| Mumbai news

Mumbai: The union environment ministry has established a standard operating procedure to allow project proponents to give up environmental clearances (EC), in case of projects that fail to take off. The procedure was outlined by an office memorandum, (OM), dated March 28, and a copy has been seen in the Hindustan Times.

This Ministry has been notified of instances in which Project Proponents abandon the project after obtaining EC form the relevant Competent Authority. Many times, Project Proponents abandon the project without informing the Competent Authority. They do not surrender the EC and leave it, the ministrys OM states.

It also states that such practices not just defeat the purpose and may pose a threat to local residents. The union environment ministry also pointed out that abandoning projects amounts to not complying with the conditions upon which ECs are granted.

If they want to cancel partially or completely implemented projects, all project proponents must inform their state environment department.

A significant development is that all builders, industry workers, and others involved in polluting activities will have to continue complying with the conditions EC until their request for closure is received by either the ministry or state environment department. Zaman Ali, a city-based environmental lawyer, said that this is a very important development.

The OM applies to all activities listed in Schedules 3 through 8 of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification. These include metallurgical and cement industries and petrochemical plants.

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Consider a building project where the developer has already laid the foundations but is unable to complete the project due to legal or administrative issues. Or hazardous raw materials are shipped, but the industry can’t proceed with manufacturing. In these cases, proponents may not be able surrender EC to end the project. According to an engineer from a Mumbai-based EIA consultancy, they may need to restore the project site or transport hazardous materials to a safer place.

Partly implemented projects will be subject to the new procedure that requires the creation of an action plan to decommission the or dismantle the activities before surrendering to EC. Regional officers from state pollution control board offices will oversee the implementation of the plan. Only after these plans are fully implemented, closure certificates will be issued at either a state-level or central level. Project proponents will also need to sign undertakings (on non judicial stamp paper), to comply with environmental liabilities.

This could allow for the restoration of areas where partially implemented projects have had an adverse impact on the environment. Restoration is a sine nuqua (an essential condition of the EIA Notice). Although the OM allows for some flexibility for proponents who want to abandon a project, it does not allow them to pollute. Ali said that it remains to be seen how this direction will be implemented.

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