Environment & Biodiversity

EIA is required before approving urban development projects: SC

  • The Supreme Court has urged legislators and policy experts to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies before approving urban development projects in India’s cities.
  • The Supreme Court heard how haphazard urban development has ruined Bengaluru’s ‘Garden City,’ as seen during a major rainstorm in September 2022.
  • According to the court, the city struggled for drinking water while it was submerged following the downpour.

What is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?

  • EIA is a management tool used to reduce the environmental impacts of development projects and achieve sustainable development through timely, adequate, corrective, and protective mitigation measures.
  • The MoEFCC employs EIA Notification 2006 as a key tool for mitigating the environmental consequences of rapid industrialization and reversing trends that may lead to climate change in the long run.
  • The Environmental (Protection) Act of 1986 now makes EIA mandatory for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores or more.

Stages of the EIA

  • Screening: This stage determines whether a project will receive a full or partial assessment need study.
  • Scoping: This stage determines which impacts must be assessed. This is done in accordance with legal requirements, international conventions, expert knowledge, and public participation. This stage also seeks alternative solutions that avoid or at least mitigate the project’s negative consequences.
  • Impact assessment and evaluation, as well as alternative development: This stage predicts and identifies the environmental impacts of the proposed project, as well as elaborates on the alternatives.
  • EIA Report: An environmental management plan (EMP) and a non-technical summary of the project’s impact are prepared for the general public during this reporting stage. This document is also known as the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  • Decision making: The decision on whether or not to grant approval to the project, and if so, under what conditions.
  • Monitoring, compliance, enforcement, and environmental auditing: This stage ensures that the predicted impacts and mitigation efforts are carried out in accordance with the EMP.
  • EIA procedures also include risk assessment, inventory analysis, and hazard probability and index.

Issues with EIA in India

  • There is a route for ex-post-facto clearance.
  • It applies to ongoing or completed projects for which an EIA clearance was never sought or granted, and the project was built anyway, in violation of the norms.

Key recommendations

  • Striking a proper balance: The court observed that a proper balance between sustainable development and environmental protection is required.
  • EIA should be an analytical process or procedure that systematically examines the potential environmental consequences of a given activity’s implementation (project).
  • Implication study: It should ensure that the environmental consequences of decisions related to a specific activity are considered before decisions are made.
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