Not complying with conditions of clearance can be a serious offence
A committee set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has issued a first of its kind of guidelines which differentiate between offences. These guidelines seek to categorise offences relating to non-compliance with conditions attached to environmental clearances (EC), which the ministry grants to infrastructure and development projects.
The committee, headed by B Sengupta, former member-secretary of Central Pollution Control Board, was asked to categorise non-compliant actions as serious and non serious. The panel completed the task after four meetings. The aim behind developing these guildeines is that it would enable monitoring of conditions attached to EC more effectively.
The committee was formed consequent to the recommendations of another expert committee formed in 2009, headed by J M Mauskar, special secretary with MoEF. The guidelines have been uploaded on the ministry's website for comments.
Guidelines cover 26 sectors
The report, released on October 31, categorises non-compliant actions as serious and non serious for 26 sectors. These include mining, thermal power plants, cement and iron and steel. To identify non-compliance and the subsequent categorisation of these, the committee referred to EC letters. A serious offence, according to the report, is non-installation of pollution abatement equipment like an electrostatic precipitator for curbing particulate emissions.
The committee has also put forth actions that need to be taken in case of violations in these two categories which are essentially the same as the already existing actions. In case of non-compliance, the governments (Central or state) may serve a show-cause notice under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986. In case of immediate danger to public life and property, direct closure order for the industry may be issued. In case of non-serious violation, a letter would be written to the project proponent and action will depend on the industry's response. Repeated failure to comply will be considered a serious violation.
The committee has also given suggestions for improvement in the EC conditions. These include good waste management practices, urgent development of sulphur-dioxide standards for thermal power plants and development of coal reject management guidelines.
The committee has some suggestions for the ministry, too. These include pollution boards measuring ambient air quality and project-specific standards after commissioning of a project, instead of leaving it to the project proponent. For this, the EC itself should contain information about the number of stations and frequency of monitoring.
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