Amnesty Scheme for violators of Environment Norms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EIA

Mains level : Loopholes in EIA

The union environment ministry has put together an amnesty scheme for infrastructure and industrial projects that have violated environmental clearance (EC) norms for Environment Impact Assessment.

What is the Scheme?

The new amnesty scheme empowers regulatory institutions at both central and state levels:

(1) To identify and report cases of violation

  • It refers to identify, examine and appraise violation projects, refraining from causing further environmental damage and also compensating for causing damage to the environment.

(2) To take action against violators in terms of closure or demolition of a project

  • It defines three different actions to be taken for the violation projects depending upon their EC status.
  • In case the project has not obtained EC, it will be ordered to close its operations.
  • If the project has undergone expansion without obtaining EC for the expanded portion, it will be ordered to revert the activity/production to the limit granted in the existing EC.

(3) To levy penalty on them that is akin to the scale of the project

  • It entitles the regulatory authorities to levy penalties on the proponent, in addition to the bank guarantee.

Issues with the scheme

  • There is also no established procedure to ensure that the complaints made against the violator are not dismissed without hearing.
  • This ambiguity in the memorandum leaves scope for a less transparent redressal mechanism.
  • The penalties suggested could be termed as legitimating non-compliance.

Criticisms

  • Environmental experts argue that such a move to regularise projects, irrespective of size, scale or impact, is purely a political move.
  • They regarded this move as weakening the EIA process.
  • This will be the largest regularization scheme for projects that have operated illegally in India and added to our total environmental and social burdens.
  • Thousands of projects operate in different states without any environmental approval.

Way forward

  • Looking at the plethora of violation cases it is imperative to develop such a mechanism.
  • However, we should not compromise the existing environmental regulations and adopt a ‘zero tolerance for violation’.

Back2Basics: Environment Impact Assessment

  • Environment impact assessment is a process under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which prevents industrial and infrastructural projects from being approved without proper oversight.
  • This process ensures that every project should go through the EIA process for obtaining prior environmental clearance.
  • EIA covers projects such as mining of coal or other minerals, infrastructure development, thermal, nuclear and hydropower projects, real estate and other industrial projects.
  • The projects are assessed based on their potential impact on the environment. Based on the assessments, they are granted or denied environmental clearance by a panel of experts.

Loopholes in draft EIA 2020

  • The EIA new draft 2020 allows post-facto clearance.
  • This means that even if a project has come up without environmental safeguards or without getting environment clearances, it could carry out operation under the provision of the new draft EIA 2020.
  • This is disastrous because we already have several projects that are running without EIA clearances.
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