A Brief Study On Environmental Impact Assessment
Updated: Jan 20
“It is our collective and individual responsibility, to preserve and tend to the world in which we all live.” –Dalai Lama
The environment in which we live is very precious in such a manner that every part of it is unique in its respective way. Each part of our natural milieu constitutes and functions in a Sui generis fashion, thus becoming a quintessential constituent of our earthly existence. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a method of taking care of our environment along with equally focussing on economic development needs. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines EIA as, “the process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account the socio-economic, health, and other human impacts. This evaluation includes the analysis of both advantages and disadvantages of a proposed project.”
EIA in India
Environment Impact Assessment is a way of evaluating the project at the initial stages of planning and development before the final decision is tended to be taken. It encompasses the discussion, debate, and dissent processes whereby the citizen volunteers, activists, and concerned Ministries engage in a thorough investigation and perusal of the proposed economic development project. It also takes into account the issues and dilemmas of the local community members who are most prone to any adverse effect that can be caused by the project. In India, the Environment Protection Act (1986) statutorily governs and oversees the processes and modus operandi of the EI Assessment. A statutory backing to a project or an assessment carried out by the Government gives it the legitimacy required in the eyes of the public and raises its pedestal to the notion of constitutional validity. The Constitution of India (1950) under Article 21 and Article 48 A specifically provides for a safe and secure environment as a part of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) mentions the right to have a healthy environment under Article 25.
History of EIA in India
Environmental Impact Assessment in India was initiated in the year 1976-77, with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) being asked by the Planning Commission to evaluate the ongoing river valley projects. Initially, only the Cabinet was allowed to give environmental clearances, sans any legislative interference. However, in January 1994, the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests under the parent Environment Protection Act of 1986 promulgated an EIA official notification thus making EIA or environment clearances mandatory and compulsory for expansion or modernization of any area. A new Notification was promulgated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in 2006 making certain other guidelines concerning EIA-
Environment Clearance has been made mandatory for projects like mining, setting up of thermal power plants, river valley projects, and foundry unit set-ups.
Depending on the size or capacity of the projects, the onus for giving clearances is on the State Governments.
Features of 2006 EIA Notification
The most important feature of the 2006 Amendment is that the projects have been divided into two parts- Category A includes projects which require clearance by the Central Government (owing to their size and capacity) and Category B, which includes state-level appraisal only. At both the Central and State levels, the Environment Impact Assessment Agency/ Authority is set up along with a National/ State Level Expert Appraisal Committee; that shall look into the claims of the people giving suggestions/opinions on a proposed project.
There are four basic features or stages of EIA as per the 2006 Notification and these include- screening, scoping public hearing, and appraisal. All these steps are integral to the process of EIA as each one of them has its inevitability. Category A projects require mandatory clearance and thus do not undergo any screening project, whereas in Category B- B1 projects require no EIA and B2 projects require mandatory EIA.
Importance of EIA
EIA is important for a developing country like India because it tries to connect the economy with ecology, thus making the road to sustainable development a clearer one. It tries to invalidate unnecessary expenses at the very onset of a development project and is a Government’s way of protecting the rights of those who live in the vicinity of the area that is proposed to be developed. It also enables the Government to develop a sustainably viable development plan.
The EIA is a sure way to protect the environment, the rights of the indigenous people, and for achieving sustainable development goals in a phased manner. A quick analysis of the whole process is enough to establish its claim for being viable protection for all sections of society.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sanighdha is currently pursuing law at University Institute Of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
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Edited By: Swathi. Ashok. Nair.
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