COVID-19: MoEF&CC extends validity of environmental clearances till June 30

Experts urged the ministry to reissue draft of notification on environment impact assessment also

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Monday 30 March 2020
All projects that fall under the purview of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, require an environmental clearance Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The validity of environmental clearances (EC) across the country were extended till June 30, 2020 by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), after the 21-day nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) came into effect.

The projects are supposed to function under the terms and conditions, “notwithstanding any condition imposed in the respective Prior Environment Clearance”, according to a memorandum issued by the ministry, dated March 25.

The ministry had earlier issued a draft environment impact assessment (EIA) notification on March 12. The draft proposed to bring the projects that violated laws under regulations.

Experts said the ministry should reconsider reissuing the draft notification after the lockdown is lifted.

The EIA is a study conducted through which an EC is granted. 

All projects that fall under the purview of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, require an environmental clearance for running its operations. They are usually given before a project commences.

The MoEF&CC, however, in recent years since 2017 has issued ex-post facto clearances to projects in violation of the law.

“We are deeply concerned that this draft notification has been put out in the midst of a national health crisis. As you are aware, most of the country is under lockdown and there are severe restrictions on movement in public places,” said a letter written to Environment Secretary CK Mishra, on March 25, according to media reports.

The EIA notification is an important regulation, said the letter, written by Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon, legal researchers at the Centre for Policy Research.

EIA studies the impacts of land use change, water extraction, tree felling, pollution, waste and effluent management for industrial and infrastructure projects and is used in developmental decision-making, the letter said.

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