Average time for environmental clearance down to less than 90 days: Govt
The average time to grant environmental clearances in all sectors has reduced significantly from over 150 days in 2019 to less than 90 days in 2021 said the Union environment ministry in a statement on Wednesday.
The clearance time is as low as 60 days in some sectors, it added.
The ministry has granted environmental clearances to 7,787 projects through environment impact assessment (EIA) notifications in 2021, the statement added.
“In pursuant to the spirit of ‘digital India’... a Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System named PARIVESH has been developed…over the years, the existing system of ‘PARIVESH’ has undergone numerous modifications and customization in alignment with statutory provisions and requirements,” the statement said.
The ministry has automated various processes through Parivesh such as development of online modules for dispensing requirements for environmental clearance for expansion / modernisation of industries provided there no increase in pollution load; aligning the EIA notification with Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 2021; Online generation of environmental clearance with unique ID number and several others.
HT had reported in April that the environment ministry has allowed companies operating in several industries, including some polluting ones, to expand capacities on the basis of a self-certification that this will not “increase the pollution load”, creating the room for potential misdeclaration (and misuse).
Further, the ministry has decided to upgrade the Parivesh portal to provide a “single window” solution for administration of environmental regulations.
“Upgraded Parivesh will not only strengthen the clearance processes but also encourage ease of doing business in the country. Know Your Approval module with inbuilt decision rules in the envisaged system will guide the Users about the applicability of clearances to the proposed project activity. In addition, it will minimize repetitive efforts of the Users and the same time will ensure single version of the truth across all applicable clearances,” the ministry said.
The ministry also listed the biological diversity amendment bill; India’s stance at Glasgow climate change conference (COP 26) and implementation of national clean air programme among its major achievements in 2021.
One of the major changes in the new biological diversity amendment bill is that registered Ayush practitioners who have been practising indigenous medicine can access any biological resource and its associated knowledge for commercial utilisation, without giving prior intimation to the concerned State Biodiversity Board which has been widely criticised by experts.
However, researchers said the reduction in clearance times was not benefiting conservation.
“Has the time taken to grant environmental clearance reduced due to increased vigilance and better enforcement? They don’t say whether the level of scrutiny has improved. The mandate of the environment ministry is environmental protection. How is it an achievement if they have reduced time to grant EC by not improving monitoring and infrastructure? Its also laughable that the ministry counts proposed amendments to the biological diversity act and forest conservation acts to be achievements,” said Ritwick Dutta, environmental lawyer.
“The environment regulation is being assessed through a perverse logic that considers rates and dates of approvals as measure of success. It is no longer about how much area has been protected from degradation or how much environmental damage has been remedied. Faster rates of clearance do not ensure financial viability or a project and neither does it ensure that proposals are ecologically wise and socially legitimate,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research.