Environment Impact Assessment Part III
1. Shortcomings of Environmental Impact Assessment
There are several projects with significant environmental impacts that are exempted from the notification either because they are not listed in schedule I, or their investments are less than what is provided for in the notification.
1.2 Composition of expert committees and standards:
• It is being found that the team formed for conducting EIA studies is lacking the expertise in various fields such as environmentalists, wild life experts, Anthropologists and Social Scientists (to study the social impact of the project).
• For example for the preparation of EIA report of the proposed oil exploration in coast of Orissa by the corporate company has been given to the life science Dept. of Berhampur university which has no expertise on the study of turtles and its life cycle.
1.3 Public hearing:
• Public comments are not taken into account at the early stage, which often leads to conflict at the later stage of project clearance.
• A number of projects with significant environmental and social impacts have been excluded from the mandatory public hearing process.
• The documents which the public are entitled to are seldom available on time.
• The data collectors do not pay respect to the indigenous knowledge of local people.
2. Quality of EIA
• One of the biggest concerns with the environmental clearance process is related to the quality of EIA report that are being carried out.
• The reports are generally incomplete and provided with false data.
• Many EIA report are based on single season data.
• The EIA document in itself is so bulky and technical, which makes it very difficult to decipher so as to aid in the decision making process.
• 2.1 Lack of Credibility
• It is the responsibility of the project proponent to commission the preparation of the EIA for its project.
• The EIA is actually funded by an agency or individual whose primary interest is to procure clearance for the project proposed.
• There is little chance that the final assessment presented is unbiased, even if the consultant may provide an unbiased assessment that is critical of the proposed project.
• There are so many cases of fraudulent EIA studies where inaccurate data has been used, same facts used for two totally different places etc.
• There is no accreditation of EIA consultants, therefore any such consultant with a track record of fraudulent cases cannot be held liable for discrepancies.
• It is hard to imagine any consultant after being paid lakh of rupees, preparing a report for the project proponents, indicating that the project is not viable.
2.2 Monitoring, compliance and institutional arrangements
• Often, and more so for strategic industries such as nuclear energy projected, the EMPs are kept confidential for political and administrative reasons.
• Details regarding the effectiveness and implementation of mitigation measures are often not provided.
• Emergency preparedness plans are not discussed in sufficient details and the information is not broadcasted to the communities.
3. Recommendations to improve EIA process
• EIA Authority should be Independent and unbiased, free from political and personal agendas.
• EIA’s scope should be widened as and when it is necessary in order to examine unbiased.
• The data should be centralized, for better monitoring purposes.
• Dissemination of all information related to projects from notification to clearance to local communities and general public.
3.1 Implementation and public hearing
• All those projects where there is likely to be a significant alternation of ecosystems need to go through the process of environmental clearance, without exception.
• No industrial developmental activity should be permitted in ecologically sensitive areas.
• Public hearings should be applicable to all previously exempted categories of projects which have environmental impacts.
3.2 Improving the Quality of EIA process:
• The focus of EIA needs to shift from utilization and exploitation of natural resources to conservation of natural resources.
• EIA reports should strengthen its assessment of biological diversity of a project area and the consequent impacts on it.
• All EIA reports should clearly state the adverse impacts of a proposed projects. This should be a separate chapter and not hidden within technical details.
• The sub components or subsidiary reports of EIA reports (e.g. Assessments of Biodiversity impacts done by a sub consultant) should be made publicly accessible as standalone reports with the EIA. This should be available on the websites of the respective govt. dept.
• EIAs should be based on full studies carried out over at least one year. Single season data on environmental parameters like biodiversity, as is being done for several rapid assessments is not adequate to gain understanding of the full impact of the proposed project.
• It is critical that the preparation of an EIA is completely independent of the project proponent.
• State and central governments should maintain a list of credible, independent and competent agencies that can carry out EIAs. Similarly the EIA consultant those are making false reports should be black listed.
• A national level accreditation to environment consultancy should be adopted
3.3 Grant of clearance:
• The notification needs to make it clear that the provision for site clearance does not imply any commitment on the part of the impact Assessment agency to grant full environmental clearance.
• The prior informed consent of local communities and urban wards or residents association needs to be made mandatory before the grant of environmental clearance. The consent should be from the full general body.
• The language used for specifying conditions of clearance must be clear and specific.
3.4 Composition of expert committees:
• The present executive committees should be replaced by expert’s people from various stakeholder groups, who are reputed in environmental and other relevant fields.
• The process of selection of those committees should be open and transparent. The minutes, decisions and advice by these committee should be open to public.
3.5 Monitoring, compliance and institutional arrangements
• The EIA notification needs to build within it an automatic withdrawal of clearance if the conditions of clearance are being violated, and introduce more stringent punishment for noncompliance. At present the EIA notification limits itself to the stage when environmental clearance is granted.
• The Ministry of Environment and Forest should set up more regional offices with advisory Expert committees, each with smaller areas of jurisdiction, to effectively monitor the compliance of clearance conditions.
• The composition of the National Green Tribunal needs to be changed to include more judicial from the field of environment.
• Citizen should be able to access the authority for re-addressing of all violation of the EIA notification as well as issues relating to non-compliance.
3.7 Capacity building:
• NGOs, civil society groups and local communities need to build their capacities to use the EIA notification towards better decision making on projects.