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Environment clearance body on anvil

india Updated: Feb 03, 2007 20:45 IST
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A STATE-LEVEL Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) – a body that will have powers to provide environment clearance to new projects or expansion of existing ones — is on the anvil as per the latest directives of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

The State’s Housing and Environment Department has initiated steps towards setting up of this authority as well as a State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) as per the revised guidelines of the MoEF. The department has issued an advertisement, inviting applications from experts (retired professionals) to be appointed on these panels.

These two bodies will be helpful in getting environmental clearance for 60-70 per cent of the projects at the State level, cutting short the process of going to the MoEF for approval to each project, Principal Secretary of the Housing and Environment Department P D Meena told Hindustan Times. The SEIAA will have powers to clear small and medium projects, while big ones will still require MoEF clearance, he added.

The State government will recommend the names of experts to be appointed on the committee, while the MoEF will issue the notification of their appointment. Meena said a high-level scrutiny committee, headed by Chief Secretary Rakesh Sahni and including principal secretaries of departments concerned, has been formed to go through the applications and recommend the names. He said MP would probably be one of the poineering states to set up these two bodies.

The SEIAA will be a three-member committee including a chairman who needs to be an expert in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), a member-secretary who needs to be a serving officer of the State government familiar with environmental laws and a member who should be a professional or an expert as specified by the MoEF.

The SEAC will be a 15-member body with a Chairman who should be an environmental policy expert and 13 members including experts on environmental quality, project management, EIA, floral and faunal management as well as forestry and wildlife.

While the SEIAA will be the main authority to give environmental clearance at the state level to industries and projects as mentioned in the MoEF notification, the SEAC will have the right to inspect any site connected with the project or activity in respect of which the clearance is sought.

Meena said applications for all these posts are expected by February 15, following which there would be scrutiny by the Chief Secretary’s committee and the final panel will be recommended to MoEF in March. The Centre has set a deadline of June 2007 to form these bodies and the PS was hopeful that MP would complete the task well before the deadline.

The media advocacy body Prayatna had submitted a memorandum to Rakesh Sahni demanding that there should be no political interference in constitution of these bodies and that a high-level committee be formed for the selection. Prayatna secretary Ajay Dubey said setting up of these committees is a welcome step, as it would help curb environmental pollution but appointment of competent persons is an imperative.