Modi govt dilutes environmental clearances for hydro-electric and mining projects  

A gazette notification released by environment ministry states, projects up to 5,000 hectares would’t require clearances. Asbestos mining, which was banned, would now require central govt clearances

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Ashlin Mathew

In a gazette notification released by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, the Modi government has decided to completely disregard environmental clearances required for hydro-electric and mining projects, in addition to relaxing stricter laws implemented during the UPA-2.
Unlike the existing laws, the draft regulation suggests that coal mining projects upto 150 hectares would require only state-level clearances; earlier projects only upto 50 hectares could approach the state government for approvals.
In case of irrigation projects, the existing laws state that any project more than 10,000 hectares would require Central government clearances, which are considered to be more stringent than state clearances. Now, the ministry led by Dr Harsh Vardhan has proposed that projects between 5,000 hectares and 50,000 hectares would require clearances only from the state government.
In an alarming change, the regulation states that projects up to 5,000 hectares would not require any clearances. Interestingly, asbestos mining is not allowed, but the notification shows it as a category A project (Central government clearances).
“All these measures and notifications are retrograde, particularly because even if you mine coal on a small area, it has a huge ecological impact. You can’t make the rules lax. What the change in rules means is that all projects between 10,000 hectares and 50,000 hectares that would have required a nod from the Central government does not need so anymore. It can be quietly obtained at the state level,” points out Shripad Dharmadhikary, the founder of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra.

“All these projects are likely to have a large impact on the ecology. There is no rationale behind removing them from the category A (Central government clearances). Projects less than 5,000 hectares are exempt from getting clearances now. What they don’t realise is that small projects can have a significant impact on the environment,” adds Dharmadhikary.
As per new notification, less than 100 hectares of non-coal mining lease area will not appraised by Expert Appraisal Committee of central government. Earlier it was less than 50 hectares.
“By this notification now all the projects less than 100 hectares area will be appraised as category B project and will not be required to prepare Environment Impact Assessment reports. They will go before State Impact Assessment Authority and not before Central committee. Also now large projects will be considered by State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority and will miss the scrutiny which projects from central government attract,” said Rahul Choudhary, a senior lawyer with Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE).

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