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Latest Report: State of Environment Clearances in India
26 Dec 2014

Within India, "Green clearances", has been subjected to severe criticism for deterring the industrial development process and impacting economic growth.

How much truth is there to such perceptions? Which aspects of the process of securing environmental and forest clearance need attention and how can these be addressed? This study was undertaken to comprehend these contours of development.

The key findings of our research are:

  • Though a majority of projects across sectors and states get environmental clearance within a year, for projects that don't get approved, the time taken for clearance is huge.
  • For projects facing clearance delays, the process of collecting the required data and information, conducting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and required document submission requires most time and is the reason for major delays across sectors. The stage up to approval of Terms of Reference (ToR) and the stages after submission of documents for final clearance take relatively shorter time.
  • A large part of projects across sectors, especially under the industrial category (90%), are pending due to forest clearances.
  • In the north-eastern states of India, more than 50% of projects have been rejected, returned or withdrawn under the forest clearance process.
  • As per our definition of delays i.e. 940 days, 40-60% of projects in thermal power, hydropower, coal mining and nuclear power sectors have faced delays during the stage of EIA, public hearing and submission of required data and information to the committee.
  • In Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and north-eastern states, 60%-70% of projects have been in the clearance pipeline for at least two years since their date of application, and many of these have been in the waiting process for more than three years.
  • As per our definition of delays i.e. 940 days, at least 40% projects in Chhattisgarh are facing delays.
  • From the textual analysis, it was evident that the delays in the clearance process cannot solely be blamed on the extant laws or administrative barriers.
  • Non-compliance with the TOR, incorrect information submission, insufficient data analysis and submission of wrong format and out-dated forms etc featured regularly across the 120 projects reviewed in the EAC meeting reports.
  • Delay in approval from other ministries or departments as per the project requirements caused significant postponement especially for coal mining, hydropower and nuclear power projects. These approvals ranged from that of SPCB, Ministry of Coal, state revenue departments, Panchayat Committees etc.

Our recommendations are centred around the three main problems that we identified: (i) major delays happening after the grant of ToR and during the process of data/information collection for EIA, conducting public hearing and required document submission; (ii) issues related to the public hearing process, and (iii) issues related to information management for effective delivery of the environmental clearance process. Following are our key recommendations:

  • Creation of an Environmental Clearance Service Cell within MoEFCC to assist project developers in adhering to the specified guidelines as per the ToR, to assist in getting clearances across various departments and ministries, and as a manager of detailed information system aimed at regular monitoring and analysis of projects at the individual level and from a macro perspective.
  • Overhauling the public hearing process to a longer term public participation process that seeks to build public trust, address concerns and institutionalizing EIA follow up process for smoother conclusion of the public participation process
  • Creation of an Environmental Clearance Information System (ECIS) within MoEFCC for regular reporting, analysis and monitoring of projects, both at the level of individual projects and all projects taken together within different categories

Read: State of Environment Clearances in India - Procedures, Timelines and Delays across Sectors and States

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