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To speed up infrastructure projects, Centre decides diluting environment assessment procedures


NEW DELHI: In what is being read as an attempt to steamroll infrastructure project clearances, the environment ministry has decided to dilute assessment procedures to study possible environmental damages and their social impact.  

Projects seeking environment clearances come to ministry’s expert appraisal committees (EAC), where they take humongous time for final approval — from 83-220 days in 2015-16 to 176-336 days in 2019-2020. 

To resolve this bottleneck, “all projects, placed in the agenda, should be considered by the EAC notwithstanding the non-attendance of the Project Proponent or his consultant in the EAC meeting to make a presentation,” said an Office Memorandum issued by the ministry last week.

All EAC meetings shall be held at least twice a month to cut down the period of Environmental Clearance (EC) approval, it added.

All fresh EC proposals submitted 10 days before an EAC meet shall be taken up at its meeting. 

Any queries or issues the division may have should be raised during the EAC meeting itself, it said. “Member Secretary ought to ensure that the relevant queries of the division are also pointed out at the time of EAC meetings itself so as to avoid occasion for such queries before and after the examination by EAC.”

However, Kanchi Kohli, Legal Research Director, CPR-Namati Environment Justice Program, said that the directive visualises environmental appraisals to straight-jacketed, linear and bureaucratic processes.