After the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT) hinted at "conflict of interest" in environment ministry’s presence in appraisal and environment approval process, a separate body would be set up to look into the matter.
As a result, the environment ministry has proposed the National Environment Assessment and Monitoring Authority (NEAMA) to bring in transparency, accountability and predictability in the clearance process.
Ministry's approval process has been questioned and its own committee on alleged environment violations in Posco's steel plant in Orissa termed the approval given to the project as faulty. This year alone, the National Environment Appellate Authority had quashed ministry's three environment approvals citing violation of norms. The IIT-Delhi, which was asked to examine the environment ministry’s approval process, said the presence of the ministry in the appraisal and approval of both Vedanta Resources and Posco lead to a "perception of conflict of interest".
Highlighting another loophole in the clearance process, the institute said the ministry is dependent on the project proponent for the data and there is no mechanism to validate the same. "Lack of mechanisms to validate the data provided by the project proponent might lead to subjectivity," the IIT's report said.
Working on the IIT recommendation, the ministry floated framework of NEAMA in place of earlier proposed National Environment Protection Authority, whose independence was being opposed by the ministry officials.
The IIT's view has also been endorsed by the Planning Commission, which stressed an autonomous, multi-disciplinary appraisal and monitoring agency with scientific rigour.
The new agency will conduct both environment and coastal regulation clearances. The ministry has also proposed to increase penalties and fast track them for alleged environment violations under the Environment Protection Act.