Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The Union Environment Ministry has developed a Star Rating system to help state authorities grant environment clearances in the shortest time possible. This may prove controversial. Experts in environmental law fear that this could lead to state authorities competing for faster clearances, without properly addressing environmental concerns.
The ministry has developed criteria to rate the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority. It is based on several factors, including the average number of days it takes to grant EC, percentage that fresh terms of reference/ToR Amendment proposals are being processed, percentage that fresh EC is awaiting for over 105 days, average number days taken to accept the proposals for ToR/EC as well as complaints reassessed at the SEIAAs.
After a meeting last year, which was chaired by the cabinet secretary to discuss the actions taken on Ease to Do Business, there was discussion regarding the ranking states based upon the time taken for clearances to be granted. The Star Rating system will be used to encourage states by determining their efficiency and timeframes for granting EC. The ministry stated that this is a way to recognize and encourage as well as to promote improvements where necessary.
The SEIAA rating will be dynamic and based on the performance of the last six months. Data for six months beginning on the first and last day of the block period will also be considered. This will be updated at every month’s end. According to the ministry, the average time required to grant EC has fallen to approximately 75 days, compared to the 105 day timeline set out in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006.
Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, an environmental law organization, stated that this will allow projects to be cleared in the shortest time possible. This order is contrary to the environmental rule, violates Article 21 and is an arbitrary exercising of power.