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Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 01, 2011
An environment ministry committee has categorised serious and non-serious environmental violations to prevent uncertainty over projects such as posh housing project of Lavasa Corporation and has recommended additional conditions for environmental clearance.

The committee had said that all conditions listed in the environment clearance letter issued to the project proponent should be considered "serious" and any violation of it should mean time-bound action against the violator.

There have been cases where the environment ministry or the state government level regulatory authorities have taken years to decide on cases of violation of environment clearance conditions.

The government can impose as many conditions as it wants while giving environment clearance to the projects and initiate action against the violators under the Environment Protection Act. Over 30 environment conditions were imposed for construction of a new airport at Navi Mumbai and several mining projects approved in different parts of the country.

Leaving very less for bureaucratic interpretation, the committee headed by former member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) B Sengupta wants the government to have powers to close an industry believed to be immediate threat to public life and property.

To make environmental clearance conditions effective the committee wants that the process of show-cause notice and its reply should be finished in a limited timeframe. "Decision on the basis of the reply received from the industry by Competent Authority within stipulated timeframe," the committee said in its report submitted to the ministry.

The committee had also said that failure to develop the stipulated green belt before the commencement of the project, provide enough protection to wildlife and implement relief and rehabilitation package should be considered a serious violation.

The non-serious violations can be condoned after charging a penalty, the committee said.

In addition, the committee has also suggested a set of new environment conditions should be imposed in every sector while approving projects. It includes mandatory use of fly-ash in the cement industry and installing of clean and efficient technologies.

The recommendations come at the time when the environment ministry is under flak for failure to implement its own environment clearance conditions and there was no clarity on initiating action against the violators.