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Sector: State Highway  |  Module 2: Work through the PPP process

Overview of Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is often a key requirement as part of the process of gaining Environmental Clearance (EC). The EIA report can be a ‘Stand Alone‘ document or can form a part of the DPR or Feasibility Report as the case may be.

The generic structure of an EIA in India is outlined in Appendix III of the MoEF EIA Notification, which defines the EC process. Further general (non-India specific) information on EIAs is available in the World Bank’s Operational Policy.

The various particular factors to be considered for EIA are sector specific. However, in general, the following are common to EIAs prepared for all sectors1

1) Project description:  Describes the proposed project and its geographic, ecological, social and temporal context, including any off-site investments that may be required. Indicates the need for any resettlement or social development plan.

2) Baseline Data:  Describes relevant physical, biological and socioeconomic conditions, including all changes anticipated before the project commences, within an area around the project site. Under current regulations in India this is a radius of 10 or 25km of the site, depending on whether the site is in the vicinity of sensitive areas such as National Parks, sanctuaries, or archaeological monuments. Additionally takes into account current and proposed development activities within the project area but not directly connected to the project.

3) Environmental Impacts: Predicts and assesses the project’s likely positive and negative impacts in quantitative terms to the extent possible. Identifies mitigation measures and any negative environmental impact that cannot be mitigated. Explores opportunities for environmental enhancement

4) Analysis of alternatives: Systematically comparesfeasible alternatives to the proposed projects site, technology, design and operation including the “without project” situation in terms of their potential environmental impacts, the feasibility of mitigating these impacts, their capital and recurrent costs, their suitability under local conditions and abatement.

5) Environmental Monitoring Programme and Environmental Management Plan:  Describes mitigation, monitoring and institutional measures to be taken during construction and operation to eliminate adverse impacts, offset them, or reduce them to the acceptable levels.

6) Description of project costs and benefits

7) Consultation: Record of consultation meetings, including consultations for obtaining the informed views of the project affected people (PAPs), local NGOs and regulatory agencies. Disclosure also of the consultants that were engaged during the study.

8) Summary and conclusions covering the justification for the project and the approach to mitigating adverse affects

Environmental Clearance

The process and requirements for Environmental Clearance, including definitions of whether projects are required to get clearance at the Central or State level, are covered in the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ (MoEF) EIA Notification. Further information is available from the Ministry’s EIA Manual.

The main features of the EIA Notification are summarised below.

Categorization of projects and activities

The Notification broadly categorises all projects and activities as either Category A or Category B. This categorisation depends on the size of the project and the degree of potential impacts on human health and natural and man made resources. The specific thresholds for categorising projects are provided in the Schedule to the Notification.
All Category A projects require a ‘Prior Environmental Clearance’ (EC) from MoEF.

Category A projects include all physical infrastructure whose size and cost is greater than certain minimum levels as defined in the Schedule. Environmental Clearances for these projects are granted at the Central level. Physical infrastructure includes projects in the ports, highways, water and sanitation, urban transport, and solid waste management sectors.

  • All new National Highways are classified as Category A. In addition, expansion of National Highways greater than 30 KM, involving additional Right of Way (ROW) greater than 20m, involving land acquisition and passing through more than one State are categorized as Category A.

Category B covers projects with lesser size or capacity, and smaller impacts than Category A. Environmental Clearances for Category B projects are granted at the State level. Each State has a dedicated department or Board as, required by law, which would grant the Clearance.

The actual size definitions depend on the sector or project type. For example in the case of ports, projects with handling capacity of more than 5 MTPA come under Category A, while those with less than 5 MTPA are Category B.

Projects can be new works, the expansion and modernisation of existing projects, and changes in the product mix of existing projects.

Note, all Railway Projects, with no exception, are totally exempted from seeking Environmental Clearance under Government regulations. It should be noted however that some external funding agencies, such as JBIC, may require an EIA as part of the feasibility study or DPR.

Stages in the Environmental Clearance (EC) Process

The EC process is shown in the diagram below.

Environmental Clearance process


TOR  (Terms of Reference),  CRZ  (Coastal  Regulation Zone), SPCB (State Pollution Control Board), EAC (Environmental Appraisal Committee), EC (Environmental Clearance), CD (compact disc)

EC process for new projects

The environmental clearance process for new projects consists of four stages, some of which may not be required for all projects. These four stages in sequential order are:

  • Stage (1) Screening (Only for Category ‘B’ projects and activities)
  • Stage (2) Scoping
  • Stage (3) Public Consultation
  • Stage (4) Appraisal

Each of these is briefly described below.

Screening stage
At the screening stage, which only applies for Category B projects, the State level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) reviews the application (Form 1) to determine whether the project requires further environmental studies for preparation of an EIA report. This decision also depends on the nature and location of the project. Projects are then further categorised according to whether they require an EIA (Category B1) or not (Category B2).

Scoping stage
At the scoping stage, detailed and comprehensive Terms of Reference (TOR) addressing all relevant environmental concerns for the preparation of an EIA report are determined. This is carried out by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for Category A projects and by the State-level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) for Category B1 projects. Scoping is not required for B2 projects.

Public Consultation stage
This stage involves consultation with project affected persons on the effects of the project. Public consultation is required for all Category A and Category B1 projects, with some exceptions including projects involving the expansion of Roads and Highways (see item 7 (f) of the Schedule) which do not involve any further acquisition of land.

The concerns heard during the public consultation process must be addressed in the EIA report and in the Environmental Management Plan.

Appraisal stage
This stage sees the overall and detailed scrutiny of the final EIA report, which will have been presented to EAC or SEAC. The EAC or SEAC considers the environmental aspects of the project and makes a recommendation to the Regulatory Authority on whether prior EC should be granted or not.

EC process for existing projects

In the case of expansion, modernisation or changes to the product mix for existing projects the EAC or SEAC will decide on the requirements for EIA and public consultation.

Applying for Environmental Clearance

An application seeking an EC must be made in the prescribed Form 1 which is provided in the Notification. This must be made before commencing any construction activity, or preparation of land, at the site by the applicant. The applicant must include a copy of the pre-feasibility report with the application.

In view of the above it can take up to a year (12 months) to get an EC for an infrastructure project. Project sponsors should plan to allow this much time in the PPP project cycle.

In addition to the EC, some permits like ‘Consents under Water and Air Acts’ for the projects have to be obtained from the concerned State Governments where the projects are located. This can be pursued in a parallel process, and will usually take less time than the EC process itself.

Form 1 requires information in each of the areas indicated in the checklist below.

Checklist of information required in Form 1 of the EIA Notification

No Information required in Form 1 Collected? (yes, no)
1 Basic project information (name, location etc)  
2 Details of activity related to the project:  
2a Actions causing physical changes in the locality  
2b The project’s use of natural resources  
2c Associated substances or materials that could be hazardous or harmful  
2d Production of solid wastes  
2e Release of pollutants into the air, ground and waterways  
2f Generation of noise and vibration, and emissions of light and heat  
2g Risk of accidents  
2h Factors that could lead to cumulative impacts or consequential effects  
3 Details of environmentally sensitive areas within a certain distance of the project site  
4 Proposed TOR for the EIA study  

 

The application for EC is made to the concerned regulatory authority. The application must include the following:

  • Final EIA Report
  • A copy of the video tape or CD of the public hearing proceedings (where public consultations are mandatory – see process requirements below)
  • A copy of the final layout plan
  • A copy of the project feasibility report

For most projects the EC remains valid for five years. The exceptions to this are river valley projects (10 years) and mining projects (30 years).

 

 


1 This is based on the World Bank Operation Policy- OP 4.01 <link to file, available here>

 

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