Environmental rules for expansion of projects may be relaxed
In what is likely to be a bonanza to the mining industry, the environment ministry is considering exempting development projects including mining for expanding production capacity up to 25 per cent from environment impact assessment.
The ministry also plans to exempt projects with capacity expansion up to 40 per cent from the requirement of public consultation, with certain riders. In a draft circulated for “internal discussion” on environment impact assessment (EIA) notification 2019, which is to replace EIA notification 2006, the ministry has also proposed some changes in the constitution of the expert appraisal committee (EAC).
All projects concerning national defence and security or involving other strategic considerations as determined by Centre will also exempted from public consultation, so will all linear projects such as highways or expressways, pipelines, etc., in border states. All projects concerning national defence and security or involving “other strategic considerations” as determined by the Centre will be assessed. However, no information relating to such projects or activities will be put in public domain, the draft states.
The new notification draft is an effort to reconcile several government and court orders and amendments issued over the years, said a government official.
“The draft only puts together all the notifications and orders that have been issued related to the EIA process in previous years. We should get all the comments to the draft in another month after which it will be notified,” said CK Mishra, secretary, ministry of environment.
“The relaxation for expansion of projects is a retrograde step,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher with Centre for Policy Research.