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Biodiversity & Environment

Exemptions from Environmental Clearances

  • 23 Jan 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

The Environment Ministry has issued a notification to exempt oil and gas firms from seeking environmental clearance for on-shore and offshore drilling explorations.

  • Onshore drilling refers to drilling deep holes under the earth's surface whereas offshore drilling relates to drilling underneath the seabed.
    • These drilling methods are used in order to extract natural resources – usually oil and gas – from the earth.

Key Points

  • Demotion of Exploratory Projects: The notification has demoted exploratory projects to the category of ‘B2’ in the process of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
    • Category B projects are appraised at the state level and they are classified into two types.
      • Category B1 projects (Mandatorily requires EIA).
      • Category B2 projects (Do not require EIA).
  • Exceptions : The development of an offshore or onshore drilling site as a hydrocarbon block will continue to be classified as a “category A”.
  • Decentralisation: The exemption is part of a process of ‘decentralisation’ by the Centre as it seeks to delegate more regulatory actions to State and local units.

Background

  • Previously, exploratory surveys required the highest level of environmental scrutiny and were classified under category ‘A’ projects.
    • The category ‘A’ project needs to prepare an EIA plan and is scrutinised by a Centrally constituted committee of experts.
    • The project would also be subject to a public hearing involving the locals of the proposed project site.
    • Though, Public hearings, for category ‘A’ projects, are generally exempted if they are offshore projects

Environmental Concerns

  • The exploratory drilling process is an ecologically-intensive exercise that involves digging multiple wells and conducting seismic surveys offshore. Thus exemptions may cause loss of biodiversity.
  • The offshore drilling operations can possibly affect fish, lead to a build-up of heavy water contaminants, disorient whales and sea life.
  • The risk of oil spills threatens the coastal as well as terrestrial ecosystems.

Source: TH

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