The Ministry of the Environment modifies the EIA notification again in the name of “national security”

After making a series of amendments and proposing another last week, the Union Ministry of Environment Wednesday brought a new set of changes to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) notification of 2006.

One major amendment, among others, is that the Center will now exercise the power to assess and grant environmental clearance (EC) to national defense or security projects, in place of the state.

“All projects of category “B”, relating to national defense or of strategic or security importance or those notified by the central government due to requirements such as pandemics, natural disasters or to promote activities environmentally friendly under national programs or schemes or missions or such projects which are unduly delayed beyond the stipulated schedule as set forth in the EIA Notice and also meet the criteria defined in this regard from time to time, should be considered centrally as category “B” projects”, reads the change notification.

In accordance with the original EIA notification of 2006, the National environmental impact assessment authorities (SEIAA) have been incorporated under the relevant sections and subsections of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 for the implementation of the State EIA Notification of 2006 for the exercise delegated authority to review and award ECs for all Category B proposals (as mentioned above).

Stating that the SEIAAs have gained substantial experience over the past 15 years in the CE assessment process and that the state-level process has also been fully brought online through the PARIVESH portal for efficient and effective disposal transparency of the EC proposals, the Minister of the EnvironmentForest and Climate Change said: “Central government finds it necessary to further decentralize the EC process to facilitate state-level clearances.”

But Category B projects being those related to defense or strategic importance have a “significant element of security implication” and yet are assessed at the state level, the Ministry said and added, “The central government deems it necessary to be assessed at the central level taking into account national security concerns.”

Citing relevant clauses, it also waived the “public interest” notification requirement when implementing changes in the September 14, 2006 EIA Notification.

Earlier on April 14, the Ministry of Environment amended the EIA notification to extend the validity of CEs to hydroelectric and nuclear projects, among others. Changes include revising the CE validity for hydroelectric projects – also known as river valley projects – to 13 years (plus two years after consulting the expert assessment committee), 15 years for nuclear projects; 30 years for mining projects, extendable for 20 years and 10 years for other projects, such as cantons.

Earlier, on April 12, the ministry published a series of proposals to amend the same EIA notification requesting EC exemption for several projects, including defence-related projects/border areas, those up to 25 MW of thermal power plants based on biomass or the expansion of the airport terminal.

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