The Union ministry of environment and forests has once again extended for 30 days the deadline for enforcing the controversial draft notification under the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986. The amendment faces stiff opposition from the governments of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana and also industry associations such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Confederation of Indian Industry.
The notification makes it mandatory for various types of industry, including private sector units, to obtain environmental clearance from the Central or the state government concerned. Furthermore, a project to be located within 5 km of a reserved forest, or a zone designated ecologically sensitive, or within 25 km of a national park or sanctuary, would have to get Union environmental clearance.
The proposed notification gives the Centre authority to review any state clearance. The environmental impact assessments would have to be completed within three months. State government officials contend some of the provisions are absurd. The Rajasthan government points out that as the state has thousands of reserved forests in the non-desert belt, a 5-km zone would essentially mean blocking off vast areas without any environmental purpose.
Ecological experts, however, maintain the notification is needed as there is no mechanism yet to ensure development projects adhere to environmental norms. It would also reduce delays, they added, as there would be a three-month time limit for assessments.
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