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when did eia start in india?

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Answer # 1 #

It is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural, and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse. EIA is a tool used to assess the positive and negative environmental, economic, and social impacts of a project. This is used to predict the environmental impacts of a project in the pre-planning stage itself so that decisions can be taken to reduce the adverse impacts.

EIA is termed as one of the best policy innovations in the 1900s. The main aim of EIA is to conserve the environment and bring out the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits. Read the below-mentioned points to understand the Environmental Impact Assessment evolution and history:

Check the image below to have an idea of major developments around Environmental Impact Assessment in history:

EIA Notification 2020 draft has been made public. Once the EIA Notification 2020 will be published in the Official Gazette, it will replace EIA notification 2006. EIA has been in the news following EIA notification 2020 was drafted as one of the amendments will be the removal of public consultation from several activities (Put under Category B2).

Here are a few important terms/agencies concerning EIA notification 2020 which aspirants should further read about:

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006, is the governing legal instrument to grant green clearance for the establishment or expansion of an industry on the basis of the potential environmental impact of the project. The notification in recent times has been revised several times since its introduction in 1994.

Background:

Some of the major changes over the years are:

Rating system for state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA):

The faulty compliance module:

Undermining the public hearing process:

Extra details sought viewed as a burden:

Change in coal source without amendment:

Violation cases get recognition under the 2006 EIA notification:

So, the recent developments in the environmental clearance process in India seem to be pushing for faster approvals at the cost of due diligence and public participation. It is important for the government to strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection while ensuring transparency, accountability and participation in the process.

Read about the environmental acts mentioned above in the linked articles below:

Environment Impact Assessment is an important topic and concept under the environment section of the UPSC syllabus. This particular section is assuming greater significance in the UPSC exam because of the pertinent nature of the topics. These are also featured in the daily news with increased frequency. It is covered under UPSC Mains General Studies III and can be classified under the environment and economy also.

Aspirants can get the Environment preparation related articles in the table below:

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)- UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

Related Articles:

Multiple Choice Question

Consider the following statements

Choose the correct answer from the below-given options

A) None of the above statements are correct

B) Only statements 1 and 4 are correct

C) Only statements 1 and 3 are correct

D) All the above statements are correct.

Answer: D

Refer to the links below for UPSC Preparation:

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Tony Mercanton
Business Tycoon
Answer # 2 #

Environment Impact Assessment or EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment. A decision making tool, EIA compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.

1. What is EIA? Environment Impact Assessment or EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment. A decision making tool, EIA compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.

EIA systematically examines both beneficial and adverse consequences of the project and ensures that these effects are taken into account during project design. It helps to identify possible environmental effects of the proposed project, proposes measures to mitigate adverse effects and predicts whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, even after the mitigation is implemented. By considering the environmental effects of the project and their mitigation early in the project planning cycle, environmental assessment has many benefits, such as protection of environment, optimum utilisation of resources and saving of time and cost of the project. Properly conducted EIA also lessens conflicts by promoting community participation, informing decision makers, and helping lay the base for environmentally sound projects. Benefits of integrating EIA have been observed in all stages of a project, from exploration and planning, through construction, operations, decommissioning, and beyond site closure.

2. Evolution of EIA EIA is one of the successful policy innovations of the 20th Century for environmental conservation. Thirty-seven years ago, there was no EIA but today, it is a formal process in many countries and is currently practiced in more than 100 countries. EIA as a mandatory regulatory procedure originated in the early 1970s, with the implementation of the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) 1969 in the US. A large part of the initial development took place in a few high-income countries, like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (1973-74). However, there were some developing countries as well, which introduced EIA relatively early - Columbia (1974), Philippines (1978).  The EIA process really took off after the mid-1980s. In 1989, the World Bank adopted EIA for major development projects, in which a borrower country had to undertake an EIA under the Bank's supervision (see table 1: Evaluation and history of EIA).  Table 1: Evolution and history of EIA

3. History of EIA in India The Indian experience with Environmental Impact Assessment began over 20 years back. It started in 1976-77 when the Planning Commission asked the Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from an environmental angle. This was subsequently extended to cover those projects, which required the approval of the Public Investment Board. Till 1994, environmental clearance from the Central Government was an administrative decision and lacked legislative support. On 27 January 1994, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF), Government of India, under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for expansion or modernisation of any activity or for setting up new projects listed in Schedule 1 of the notification. Since then there have been 12 amendments made in the EIA notification of 1994.  The MoEF recently notified new EIA  legislation in September 2006. The notification makes it mandatory for various projects such as mining, thermal power plants, river valley, infrastructure (road, highway, ports, harbours and airports) and industries including very small electroplating or foundry units to get environment clearance. However, unlike the EIA Notification of 1994, the new legislation has put the onus of clearing projects on the state government depending on the size/capacity of the project. Certain activities permissible under the Coastal Regulation Zone Act, 1991 also require similar clearance. Additionally, donor agencies operating in India like the World Bank and the ADB have a different set of requirements for giving environmental clearance to projects that are funded by them.

4. The EIA process  The stages of an EIA process will depend upon the requirements of the country or donor. However, most EIA processes have a common structure and the application of the main stages is a basic standard of good practice.  The environment impact assessment consists of eight steps with each step equally important in determining the overall performance of the project. Typically, the EIA process begins with screening to ensure time and resources are directed at the proposals that matter environmentally and ends with some form of follow up on the implementation of the decisions and actions taken as a result of an EIA report. The eight steps of the EIA process are presented in brief below:

The overview of the EIA process is represented in figure 1. Figure 1: Generalised process flow sheet of the EIA process

Source: The manual in perspective, EIA Training Resource Manual, United Nations Environment Programme, 2002

5. Forms of impact assessment There are various forms of impact assessment such as Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) that are used to assess the health and social consequences of development so that they are taken into consideration along with the environmental assessment. One of the forms of impact assessment is strategic environment assessment, which is briefly discussed below: i. Strategic environment assessment Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) refers to systematic analysis of the environmental effects of development policies, plans, programmes and other proposed strategic actions. This process extends the aims and principles of EIA upstream in the decision-making process, beyond the project level and when major alternatives are still open. SEA represents a proactive approach to integrating environmental considerations into the higher levels of decision-making.  Despite its wide use and acceptance, EIA has certain shortcomings as a tool for minimising environmental effects of development proposals. It takes place relatively late at the downstream end of the decision making process, after major alternatives and directions have been chosen (see table 3: Difference in EIA and SEA). Table 3: Difference in EIA and SEA

SEA had limited development and implementation till 1990. However, after 1990, a number of countries in developed economies adopted SEA. Some countries such as Canada and Denmark have made provision for SEA of policy, plans and programmes separately from EIA legislation and procedure. Other countries such as Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc have introduced SEA requirements through reforms in EIA legislation and in case of United Kingdom through environmental appraisal. While in New Zealand and Australia, it is a part of resource management or biodiversity conservation regimes. The adoption of SEA is likely to grow significantly in the coming years especially with directives by European Union and Protocol to the UNECE Convention on Transboundary EIA by signatory countries (with a provisional date of May 2003 for completion).  6. Comparative review of EIA procedures and practices

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Ali Ran
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Answer # 3 #

This article is written by Sonia Shrinivasan.

The term Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), in its most basic sense, can be broken down for the understanding of a layman, as the gauging or estimation of the ‘Impact’ any project, program, or policy may have on the surrounding ‘Environment,’ during or after its implementation. It is considered an effective tool to ensure sustainable developmental planning and minimize any irreversible or prolonged damage to the environment.  While the aim of conducting such assessments remains uniform globally, the methods and practices might differ due to different environmental legislations prevailing in other parts of the world.

The International Association for Impact Assessment- an International Authority comprising of professionals involved with impact assessments- both socially and environmentally, defines EIA as “the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.” The entire EIA procedure can be attributed as the outcome of the 1992 Rio Declaration, which emphasized the need for direct public participation in the decision-making process pertaining to environmental issues.

The origin of EIA can be traced to the highly recognized and well-established ‘Precautionary Principle of environmental jurisprudence in India as well as around the world. Since any harm done to the environment is mainly irreversible, it is always better to minimize it rather than remedy it. All environment-based legislations aim to balance sustainable development and environmental protection and recognize the importance of such large-scale projects.

EIA was first introduced in 1978 with regard to the various river valley projects all over the country and later expanded to include various other developmental procedures in its scope. EIA is now mandatory for over 30 classes of projects.

The Environmental Protection Rules, 1986 warrant for the imposition of certain restrictions on the construction/ expansion/ modernization of specific projects without prior approval from the Central, State, or Union Territory level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (EIAA) constituted under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

The rules categorize the projects into two categories- A and B on the basis of the magnitude of their scale and impact on the natural and artificial resources. The projects belonging to Category A require approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forests on behalf of the Central Government, on the advice of an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), constituted by the Central Government for this specific purpose; eg. Construction or Expansion of Ports, harbours, airports, nuclear power, and related projects, Primary metallurgical industries (iron, steel, copper, etc), individual projects, etc. Projects and Activities falling under Category B require the approval of a State EIAA, based on the advice of a State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC), constituted under the said notification.

The Appraisal Committees at the Central and the State levels are in charge of screening and determining the scope of the projects and work on the principle of ‘Collective Responsibility. While the EAC comprises professionals from varied disciplines along with experts in fields of Environment Quality, Project Management, Risk Assessment, Forestry, and Wildlife, among other fields, the SEAC is constituted by the Central Government on similar lines, in consultation with the State Government.

The Central Government is empowered to constitute a common SEAC for more than one state and Union Territories, with the prior concurrence of the concerned state/UTs to save administrative costs.

The EAC and SEACs are constituted for a term of three years each and are supposed to meet once every year.

The EIA Notification, 2006 provides for a 4-stage procedure for obtaining environmental clearances.

In case of projects not involving obtaining EAI reports, Scoping, and Public Consultations, the appraisal is carried out on reports based on findings during the site visits, and the same shall be placed before the competent authority within 15 days for its perusal.

For projects seeking clearances for their expansion and modernization shall be considered by the concerned appraisal committee for granting/ rejection of the environmental clearance, in accordance with the same procedure mentioned above, within 60 days from the date of application.

The MoEF and State level Impact Assessment Authorities are obligated to place the granted environmental clearances in the public domain on their respective government portals, and copies of the same need to be submitted to the heads of the concerned local bodies panchayats or municipal authorities.

It is mandatory for the proponents of the project to submit the compliance reports to the concerned regulatory authorities, after every six months, on 1st June and 1st December, every year.

The draft of EIA 2020 (Amendment) was put up for public discussion and consideration by the government last year. The government proposed certain changes to the 2006 Notification in order to make the entire process transparent and applicant friendly, which were described to be ‘diluting’ the existing environmental regulations and shrink the scope of EIA, by environmentalists in and around the country.

The new draft provides for the definition of many terms related to EIA, reducing ambiguity in the existing law to a certain extent.

The new rules provide for an ‘ex post facto clearance’ route under which certain projects can go ahead with the construction without obtaining the necessary clearance, subject to the payment of fines in cases of violations, subsequently. Such clearances in past have been termed to be illegal by the courts in various decisions, most recently in April 2020, in the case of Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd v Rohit Prajapati, the Apex Court while condemning and striking down an ex post facto clearance, observed that it is in derogation of environmental jurisprudence and an ‘anathema’ to the EIA Notification, 1994. Referring to the judgment of Common Cause v Union of India, the court opined that such clearances could lead to irreparable degradation of the environment.

The period of time given to the public to file its concerns regarding the project has been reduced to 20 days, as against the 20 days provided by the 2006 notification. A new category of projects has been instituted under the head of ‘Projects Involving Strategic Considerations,’ which have been kept outside the purview of public consultations. Once a project is labeled to be strategic, no information regarding it shall be made public as a matter of right. Any violations taking place can only be reported suo moto by the appraisal/ regulatory authority, the government, or the proponents themselves.

Monitoring requirements of environmental clearances have been relaxed by allowing the submission of annual compliance reports instead of the previously mandated half-yearly ones, increasing the risk of any hazardous implication- health-wise, environmentally or socially, going unnoticed.

While the entire process of obtaining the necessary environmental clearance can be too cumbersome and lengthy to understand all at once, let us try and do the same with certain illustrations.

Answer: As per Schedule 1 of the EIA Notification, industries involved in Skin/hide processing, including the tanning industry, mandatorily require an Impact Assessment in order to obtain a clearance. Based on whether the factory is to be built in an industrialized area, the said project of establishing a leather factory will be categorized into A or B.

When the factory is to be built outside the limits of an industrialized area.

In this case, the said project will fall into Category A and would require approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forests on behalf of the Central Government, on the advice of an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), constituted by the Central Government.

In this scenario, since the approval is mandatory, there shall be no screening involved, and the project would be sent for immediate scoping.

When the factory is to be built in an industrial area.

In this case, the said project will fall into Category B and require the approval of a State EIAA, based on a State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC).

In this case, the project would be subject to the process of screening first to determine whether the project falls into Categories B1 or B2- depending on various ecological and environmental factors.

For the sake of understanding this illustration, let us assume that the project falls in the B1 Category, hence mandating approval from the SEAC to obtain a clearance.

With this, the project moves on to the subsequent stage of scoping.

Now, the subsequent stages shall remain the same for both- i) and ii).

The stage of scoping involves the concerned Assessment Authority forming a detailed EIA report based on the devised terms of reference, formulated based on on-site inspections and visits, consideration of the land in question, and the neighbouring surroundings.

The application for the environmental clearance shall be then subject to a public hearing organized by the local Pollution Control Board, wherein all the stakeholders-  Affected people, Social or Environment activist groups, Interested public, etc. are given a platform to voice their concerns regarding the construction and operation of such a factory i.e., living conditions once after the factory starts running, discharge of the said effluents into the local water body and the impact on the area in general.

Taking into account all the details of this hearing, coupled with the observations of the Assessment Authority, the concerned Appraisal Committee makes the final call whether to grant or refuse the Environment Clearance sought by the industrialist. The Committee may or may not suggest changes in the proposed plan in order to grant the same.

In case the clearance is granted,  the same shall be uploaded on the MoEF’s website, and the clearance along with other project-related documents shall be forwarded to the concerned Municipal Authority/ Local Body, and the industrialist is compulsorily obligated to submit compliance reports to the authorities annually, in furtherance of the conditions on which the clearance was granted.

Now, let us assume that in the same example, where the project built in an industrial area was categorized in Category B, after the stage of screening was put into Category B2 and as the Notification mandates, does not require an Assessment Report. Here, the stages of Scoping and Public Consultation do not come into the picture. The appraisal will be carried out on reports based on findings during the site visits, which will be placed before the competent authority within 15 days. The Appraisal Authority may or may not suggest changes while refusing or granting the said clearance.

As discussed earlier, in case the clearance is granted,  the same shall be uploaded on the MoEF’s website, and the clearance along with other project-related documents shall be forwarded to the concerned Municipal Authority/ Local Body, and the industrialist is compulsorily obligated to submit compliance reports to the authorities annually, in furtherance of the conditions on which the clearance was granted.

The deadly gas leak at the LG Polymer Plant in Vizag in May last year, which took as many as twelve lives, along with harming hundreds, was found to be operating without environmental clearances for years; the already deteriorating and ecologically sensitive region of the Western Ghats has been bombarded with proposed projects which would lead to a significant loss of green cover, compromising the sustenance of River Cauvery in the region- are certain occasions which serve as reminders for the need strengthen the existing environmental regulations for the benefit of the public and preservation of the environment for future generations.

As has been the aim and intention of environmental legislation throughout the world and in India, to promote and uphold the balance between development and preservation of the environment, it becomes increasingly important to realize the importance of environmental impact assessment towards achieving the goal of achieving the goal sustainable development.

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So feucioii Priya
SUPERVISOR WATERPROOFING
Answer # 4 #

It started in 1976-77 when the Planning Commission asked the Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from an environmental angle.

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Toralv Pollack
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