20 Aug 2019
GS Paper 3
What do you understand by Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)? What are the associated challenges and significance of EIA in India? (250 words)
- Write about Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
- Mention its significance.
- List the challenges associated with EIA in India.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the study to evaluate and identify the predictable environmental consequences of a proposed developmental project.
The EIA notification 2006 establishes four stages for obtaining Environmental Clearance.
- Screening: to categorize a project by State Level Expert Appraisal Committees (SLEAC) and assess whether a project requires EIA or is exempted from EIA.
- Scoping: by the central Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and SLEAC to determine comprehensive terms of reference for preparation of EIA report. At this stage NOC is granted by assessing the report on compliance with the prescribed effluent and emission standards.
- Public Hearing: Done to address the objections or suggestions of the local people. It is conducted by a committee with District Collector as the Chairperson and other members like officials of State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), representatives of Taluka and Gram Sabha, etc.
- Appraisal: The EAC and SLEAC scrutinize the final EIA report and, NOCs and then it is presented to MoEFCC.
Significance of EIA
- EIA reports are a critical component of India’s environmental decision-making process. Based on these reports, the Environment Ministry or other relevant regulatory bodies may or may not grant approval to a project.
- The EIA reports are also important to define measures that the project could take in order to contain or offset project impacts.
- For scientific assessment, the law mandates engagement of an accredited independent EIA consultant to undertake the study to ensure objectivity and transparency.
- The public hearing stage gives chance to the locals to raise their concerns thus helps in grassroots governance.
Challenges associated with EIA in India
Though it seems a very simplified process, but the whole process of EIA encompasses numerous structural and procedural challenges like:
- Lack of awareness among the local people, about the EIA process, their own rights and responsibilities.
- Unavailability of EIA in local languages, which helps in misleading the people.
- Ignorance and corruption among the officials involved in the EIA committee.
- Loopholes: Big MNCs circumvent EIA process by exploiting exemption provisions and loopholes in the law. Also, there is a lack of clarity in overall conductance of the Screening and Scoping processes.
- Lack of Professionals: Lack of availability of quality EIA professionals which lead to errors and omissions in the assessment.
Thus EIA is critical for environmental decision making process in India. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, our policy decisions should be based on scientific analytical assessments keeping a synergy between people and planet.