In further streamlining of the environment clearance process, the Centre may give more powers to the state governments to issue environment clearance and exempt more activities from mandatory public hearing considered a roadblock to quick take-off of the projects.
The environment ministry’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 had classified projects depending on its capacity or land requirement into category A and B.
The category A projects are cleared by the environment ministry and category B by the state governments.
While there is a clarity on environment clearance process for category A projects, confusion has arisen on category B projects in absence of clarity on which projects require mandatory public hearing or not.
As per the EIA notification, projects classified as B1 require public consultation and B2 don’t require any environment clearance and public consultation. The notification however fails to clearly state which projects are B1 and which are B2.
The confusion was further compounded by the ministry in May 2012 when it delegated the powers to issue environment clearance for minor minerals in area of less than 5 hectares to the state governments but did not specify whether they require public consultation or not.
“We have sought a review of entire categorization of activities listed for approval by the state government,” an official said, adding that Nagpur based National Environment Engineering Research Institute has been asked to submit a report.
The expert committee under the chairmanship of director NEERI is said to have finalized a draft report to enlist category B projects as B1 and B2. Several small scale projects from mining to construction would fall in the category which does not require any environment clearance.
The committee has also been asked review classification of projects which the Centre and the State governments have to examine. Many projects which are considered by the Central government would be delegated to state governments with additional conditions.
The committee was constituted after different state governments presented before the Prime Minister’s Office seeking more flexibility in clearing projects and wanted that only projects of national importance should be considered by the environment ministry.
Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has been seeking powers for the state environment impact assessment authority to clear all other projects not labeled as national projects.