4

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT



Introduction

[Image]

Landscape in Bhatti mines before and after regeneration

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important management tool for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development. In our country, EIA for development projects is being carried out from 1977-78 and now covers the following sectors: River Valley and Hydroelectric projects, Industry, Thermal Power, Mining, Ports and Harbours, Roads, Hotels, Resorts etc. The stipulated threshold limit of various projects which are being considered for Environmental Clearance are governed by the statutory Notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests on 27th January, 1994.

Index

Environmental Appraisal Procedure

Once an application for environmental clearance is received from a Project Proponent, along with requisite documents specified in the EIA Notification, the proposal is scrutinized by the technical staff of the Ministry prior to placing it before the Expert Committees constituted specifically for this purpose. The Expert Committees evaluate the environmental impacts of the project based on the data furnished by the project proponent and wherever necessary, site visits and independent assessment of environmental aspects are also undertaken. Based on such examination, the Committees make recommendations for approval or rejection of the proposal, which are then processed in the Ministry for approval or rejection.

In case of site specific projects such as mining, river valley, ports and harbours etc., a 2- stage clearance procedure has been adopted whereby the project proponents have to obtain site clearance before applying for environmental clearance of the project. This is to ensure that ecologically fragile and environmentally sensitive areas are avoided while locating projects. In case of projects, which are submitted with required documentation, a decision is taken within 90 days.

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Status of Appraisal of Projects

During the year, the various Expert Committees met a number of times as per details below and made recommendations on projects appraised.

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Sl.No.  Name of the Committee           No. of Meetings
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1.      River Valley and Hydroelectric          6
2.      Industry                                8
3.      Mining                                  6
4.      Thermal Power                           8
5.      Miscellaneous                           6
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Details of number of projects received, appraised, cleared etc. are given in Table - 6.

Table - 6

Status of developmental projects from January to December 1997

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Sl.No. Nature of the       Projects  Projects         Projects  Projects    Projects
       Project             Pending   received         cleared   rejected    pending
                                     at the begening            /exempted   at the end
                                     of the year                            of the year
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.     Industrial           102          43              98         24          23
2.     Thermal               34          39              39         14          20
3.     Nuclear Power         00          00              00         00          00
4.     River Valley
       and Hydroelectric   
       Projects              10          13              04         06          13
5.     Mining (a) Env.     
       Clearance             35          15              07         19          24
       (b) Site clearance    07          20              17         08          02
6.     Infrastructure &    
       Miscellaneous
       Projects              40          24              21         27          16
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       Total                228         154             186         98          98
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Monitoring

Environmental clearances issued by this Ministry are subject to implementation of stipulated environmental safeguards. These conditions are implemented, inter-alia, under the provisions of Water Act, 1974, Air Act, 1981, Environment Protection Act, 1986 and PLI Act, 1991 along with their amendments and rules. Monitoring of cleared projects is undertaken by the Regional Offices of the Ministry, functioning at Shillong, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bhopal and Bangalore. The primary objectives of such a procedure is to ensure adequacy of the suggested safeguards and also to undertake mid-course corrections required, if any. The procedure adopted for monitoring is as follows:

Project proponents are required to report every six months on the progress of implementation of environmental safeguards stipulated by the Ministry while according clearance to the projects.

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Amendments to EIA Notification

The EIA notification has been amended on 10th April, 1997. The amended notification, inter-alia, provides for the following:

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Amendments to CRZ Notification

The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification was issued in 1991 for regulating activities in the coastal areas of the country. As per the provisions of the CRZ Notification of 1991, the Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP) of the concerned states and Union Territories were examined and finalised in Sept. 1996. Taking into account the problems and difficulties faced while implementing CRZ Notification 1991 as well as the requirements which emerged during the finalisation of the CZMPs of the States, the CRZ Notification was amended in January 1997 and again in July, 1997. The amendments provide for the following:

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Constitution of Authorities

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has designated the Central Ground Water Board as an Authority for regulation and control of ground water management and development w.e.f. 14th January, 1997. This authority will function under the administrative control of the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India.

An Aquaculture Authority has also been set up on 16th February, 1997, to regulate the activities concerning aquaculture. This authority functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Dahanu Taluka Environment (Protection) Authority, constituted by the Ministry last year, has met four times and has given certain directions regarding various developmental activities undertaken in Dahanu Area.

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Constitution of Specified Committees

A Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Prof. N. Balakrishna Nair to examine the representation regarding implementation of the provisions of CRZ Notification and Coastal Zone Management Plan of the State of Kerala. The Committee s recommendations inter-alia related to withdrawl of ground water, modernisation of fish processing units and permission for handling hazardous substances in port areas. These recommendations have been incorporated in the amendment to CRZ Notification issued on 9th July, 1997.

The Ministry had constituted a Committee in June, 1997 to suggest criteria for stipulating CRZ distances from rivers, creeks, and backwaters and also for construction of dwelling units in CRZ-III areas for traditional local inhabitants. The report of the Committee has been submitted in December, 1997.

A Committee has been constituted in December 1997 to examine the issues related to pollution, mining etc. for the State of Goa.

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Studies Sponsored

A study entitled Evaluation and characterisation of natural and alternate sand resources in selected zones in Andaman and Nicobar Islands for use in civil works has been sanctioned to the Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee at a total cost of Rs. 13.20 lakhs. The study will be conducted in three phases and is expected to be completed in 18 months.

A study entitled, Sustainable Development Plan for Environment Protection of Kutch District of Gujarat State has been sanctioned to the National Council for Cement and Building Materials at a total cost of Rs. 32.16 lakhs. The study is expected to be completed within a period of 21 months.

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Carrying Capacity based Regional Planning Studies

All development projects utilise natural resources in one form or the other and also generate wastes. It is necessary to develop alternate strategies for sustainable development in the context of a developing country like India. Carrying capacity based regional planning takes into account the environmental quality of the eco-system also so that the welfare of human beings is not impaired. To demonstrate the viability of the carrying capacity based planning process, studies have been taken up in selected areas considered to be representative of similar problematic areas in the country. The regions selected for such studies are:

During the period under reporting, informative packages have been developed for the two carrying capacity studies already completed namely Doon Valley and National Capital Region. Workshops will be conducted for different target groups for each of the studies for wider dissemination of the concept and approaches for carrying capacity based regional planning so that sustainable development may be achieved.

Review meetings were held to discuss the progress on the Carrying Capacity Studies for the Damodar River basin, Tapi Estuary and Greater Kochi region. Projection of environmental status, resource settings and alternate development scenarios for Damodar River Basin and Tapi Estuary are being discussed before finalisation of recommendations. The final reports of these two studies are expected to be ready shortly. Two meetings were held to discuss the progress of the studies at Greater Kochi region. Collection of secondary data has been completed and gaps in information requiring primary data collection are being identified.

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Natural Resources Accounting in Upper Yamuna Basin

A study covering the Upper Yamuna Basin has been taken up to prepare natural resource accounting corresponding to the economic returns that can be co-related and approprite measures devised for technological and management interventions to ensure a more consistent and better stream of benefits from the same resource base. The study is multi-disciplinary and multi- institutional and is expected to be completed soon.

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Life Cycle Assessment in the Steel Sector

For optimal utilistion of resources, a life cycle assessment study in the steel sector has been initiated by the Ministry with joint funding from identified steel plants. Life cycle Assessment is a new management tool which examines from the cradle to grave various environmental issues associated with production, use, disposal and recycling of products including extraction of raw materials.

Two Review Meetings were held to chalk out a detailed work schedule and approach for the study. Visits of consultants to the three selected steel plants and generation of data as required for application of the Ecobilan Model is under progress. Action has also been initiated to procure the requisite software of the Ecobilan Model.

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