SOP for Environmental Violations: MoEFCC
- 13 Jul 2021
- 6 min read
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to deal with environmental violations.
- The SOP is a result of orders from the National Green Tribunal, which earlier in 2021 directed the ministry to put in place penalties and an SOP for green violations.
- Categories of Green Violation as per the SOP:
- Projects Without Clearance:
- Violations’ involving cases where construction work, including expansion of an existing project, has begun without the project proponent having acquired environmental clearance.
- Projects that are not permissible for environmental clearance.
- The permissibility of the project shall be examined from the perspective of whether such activity/project was at all eligible for grant of prior environment clearance.
- For Example: If a Red Industry(Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index (PI) score of 60 and above) is functioning in a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)-I area, which means it was not permitted at the time of commencement of the project. Therefore, the activity shall be closed.
- PI of any industrial sector is a number from 0 to 100 and the increasing value of PI denotes the increasing degree of pollution load from the industrial sector. It is developed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and used for categorization of industrial sectors in red, orange, green and white categories.
- Non-Compliant Projects:
- Projects in which prior environmental clearance has been accorded, but it is in violation of norms prescribed in the approval.
- Projects which are permissible according to environmental law but which have not acquired the requisite clearance.
- In cases of expansion of a project, including increase in volume of production, if environmental clearance has not been received, then the government agency can force the project proponent to revert to the level of construction/manufacturing before the expansion.
- Projects Without Clearance:
- In cases where operations have commenced without the required environmental clearance, 1% of the total project cost and in addition 0.25 % of the total turnover during the period of violation will be levied.
- In violation cases, where operations have not commenced, 1% of the total project cost incurred up to the date of filing of the application (for instance a fine of Rs 1 lakh for a project worth Rs 1 crore) will be levied.
- Concerns Raised by Environmentalists:
- The SOP normalises post facto regularisation of violations in which violations are first committed and then the project proponent files for clearance by which they “are let off by paying a penalty”.
- It is the institutionalising of violations on the basis of the polluter pays norm.
- Other Related Initiatives of MOEFCC:
- Earlier MoEFCC has published the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020, with the intention of replacing the existing EIA Notification, 2006 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- In 2017, the ministry had initiated a six-month amnesty scheme on penalising green violations, which was later extended.
Environmental Impact Assessment
- The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines EIA as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making.
- It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
- The Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
- Provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
- Enables the decision makers to analyse the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
- Encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
- Makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within the limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.
National Green Tribunal
- It is a specialised body set up under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010) for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
- With the establishment of the NGT, India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand, and the first developing country to do so.
- NGT is mandated to make disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing the same.
- The NGT has five places of sittings, New Delhi is the Principal place of sitting and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are the other four.