MoEF&CC issues recommendations to improve environment clearance and monitoring process

Thursday 09 November 2017

The recommendations come after an audit report found delays in all stages of impact assessment and highlighted other gaps


                    The ministry finds irregularity in data on environment impact assessment (Credit: Alfred T. Palmer/Wikimedia Commons)
The ministry finds irregularity in data on environment impact assessment (Credit: Alfred T. Palmer/Wikimedia Commons)

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has given recommendations for streamlining environment clearance and post-clearance process, on October 25. The recommendations, directed at officials working in the Impact Assessment division, talk about revalidating data, specifying conditions and maintaining clear activities and accounts.

The ministry’s circular comes after an audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in 2016 found delays in all stages of impact assessment, failure to check compliance and no study of the cumulative impact. The CAG report had suggested ways for the ministry to take action. One was that EC clearances should contain different conditions specific to the nature and type of the project. Another was that the ministry should issue directives to the States on compliance and monitoring. In fact, a key suggestion of the report was that MoEF&CC should make amendments in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 to address issues comprehensively, instead of resorting to office memorandums.

Environment ministry’s recommendations

In its circular, the ministry finds irregularity in data, as figures in audit reports do not match with information available with it. Besides, the data was not arranged according to year or sector and was of poor quality. Thus, the recommendations call for regular revalidation of data and for ensuring baseline data is accurate.

On the issue of accounting, the recommendations suggest that EIA reports and environment clearance (EC) letters should state the cost of activities classified under Environment Management Plan and Enterprise Social Responsibility, along with timelines for their implementation. It also suggests separate accounts and opening another bank account for EC. Another suggestion was that the EIA report should be prepared by an accredited consultant having no conflict of interest.

The recommendations further stress on clarity in clearance conditions, asking for information on areas developed and species planted, to be decided after consulting third parties and forestry or agricultural departments. The conditions of the EC should mention installation of monitoring stations and discuss frequency of monitoring parameters like air, water, noise and other factors. An action plan in the EIA report would also help fulfilling EMP commitments. The number and names of posts to be engaged by the proponent for implementing environment parameters should also be provided in appraisal of EC application.

Finally, the recommendations ask the impact assessment division to ensure EIA reports are written as per the terms of reference of the EC, complying with the structure and addressing concerns raised in public hearings.

Not all CAG recommendations find place in ministry circular

The ministry’s circular has made some pertinent suggestions about data representation, better accounting, clarity of terms and cleaner EIA report making. However, it falls short in addressing some other issues highlighted in the CAG’s audit report. For instance, the CAG report asked the MoEF&CC to give fresh ECs only after previously specified conditions were complied with. Another suggestion talked about surprise-checks at the premises of the project proponents. A third suggestion was about putting in place a mechanism to ensure compliance reports are regularly received and uploaded by the ministry on their websites.

Yet, none of these suggestions have been reflected in the circular.

Move from news to views and get in-depth reports on issues that matter to you, every fortnight.
Subscribe now »

We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Debate: Has economic liberalisation threatened India’s environment and natural resources?

Debate: Has economic liberalisation threatened India’s environment and natural resources?

The inaugural issue of Down To Earth (May 31, 1992) coincided with India opening up its economy. We carried a debate on how economic liberalisation would impact the country's environment. Participants in that debate voiced the fear that liberalisation could marginalise environmental concerns. Twenty-five years later, the debate has become shriller. Has liberalisation threatened the livelihoods of the underprivileged and put our natural resources at stake? Have imbalanced trade-offs between the economy and ecology become the new norm?

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.

Scroll To Top