Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)!
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the proven management tools for incorporating environmental concerns in development process and also in improved decision-making.
The programme of EIA, in vogue in the MEF for the last two decades, was initiated with the appraisal of river valley projects. The scope of appraisal was subsequently enlarged to cover other sectors like industrial projects, thermal power plants, mining schemes and infrastructure projects. To give legislative status to the procedure of impact assessment, EIA was made mandatory since January 1994 for 30 categories of development activities.
For facilitating preparation of quality EIA reports, a Manual on EIA has been prepared, which is also useful to apprising agencies and decision-makers, both at central and state levels.
Mining proposal involving major minerals with lease area more than 5 hectares in areas covered by the Aravalli notification has been brought under the purview of EIA notification. Widening and strengthening of existing canals with land acquisition up to a maximum of 20 metres (on both sides put together) along the existing alignments, provided such canals do not pass through ecologically sensitive areas, has been exempted from the purview of EIA notification.
The distance criterion, which was 25 km in case of reserved forests and ecologically sensitive areas, and 50 km in case of interstate boundary, has been reduced to 15 km in both the cases.
As a result, power projects of co-generation plants, captive power plants up to 250 MW (both coal and gas/naptha based) coal-based plants up to 500 MW using fluidised bed technology, coal-based power plants up to 250 MW using conventional technology, based plants up to 500 MW and not falling within a critically polluted area, or within a radius of 15 km of boundary of reserved forests, ecologically sensitive areas in any state, can be considered and accorded environmental clearance by the state governments themselves.
With the environmental site clearance made mandatory for mega projects, such as green field airports, petro-chemical complexes and refineries, isolated petroleum product storages have been included along with petroleum refineries including crude and product pipelines. Public hearing has been exempted for offshore exploration activities, beyond 10 km from the nearest habitated village boundary, goothans and ecologically sensitive areas such as mangroves (with a minimum areas of 1,000 sq mt) coral reefs, national parks, marine parks, sanctuaries, reserve forests and breeding and spawning grounds of fish and other marine life.
In order to improve the environmental clearance process and to make it more effective and time-bound, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has undertaken a review of environmental clearance under the World Bank-assisted Environmental Management Capacity Building (EMCB) project.
For the purpose of protecting and conserving the coastal environment, the MEF had issued the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, on 19 February 1991, declaring coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers and back waters, which are influenced by tidal action (on the land ward side), up to 500 metres from the high tide line and the inter-tidal zone, as the CRZ. The notification imposes restrictions on the setting up and expansion of industries and operations or process, etc., in the CRZ.