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Green ministry norms aim to spur growth in less-hazardous sectors

NEW DELHI: Heeding to states' plea for simplification of green clearance process, the Union environment and forests ministry has come out with detailed guidelines giving more powers to states by exempting certain category of industries, constructions and mining of minor minerals — including river sand mining projects in medium size lease area — from going through cumbersome and time-consuming procedures.

The move, which may spur growth in the less-hazardous sectors, will exempt those activities from mandatory "public consultation process" and other lengthy appraisal processes before getting states' green nod.

Though all activities — irrespective of size or nature of projects — will have to get mandatory clearance from the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), the amendments in the EIA notification will quicken the decision-making process for taking call on lesser evils.

Besides the mining of 'brick earth' (mined for making brick), which was put in the fast-track category earlier, the others that will now have to go through simple green clearance process include setting up of manmade fibre manufacturing units producing fibres from granules or chips and aerial ropeway projects.

Single super phosphate chemical fertilizer plant, coal/lignite/naphtha-based thermal power plants of less than 5mw of capacity and non-toxic secondary metallurgical processing industries among other non-hazardous or less hazardous works will also come under this category.

These activities are clubbed as B2 category under the EIA Notification, 2006, which will be appraised, based on pre-feasibility report and declaration of other information relating to land, water and energy requirement, use of hazardous substances, disposal of waste and emission from production process.

The other activities come under B1 category which will require detailed EIA report for appraisal and to undergo "public consultation process" that takes lot of time before the 
SEIAA arrives at a final decision. Earlier, both B1 and B2 categories came under a single B category where states empowered to take decision without differentiating between nature and extent of hazards.

The guideline of simplifying the green clearance process for states was issued on the day (Tuesday) the new environment minister M Veerappa Moily took charge of the 
green ministry.

Chief ministers of Maharashtra (Prithviraj Chavan) and Kerala (Oommen Chandy) had reportedly raised the issue when they met Moily on Tuesday. Besides these two states, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka have also been pressing the Centre for streamlining the environment clearance process.

As far as river sand mining projects are concerned, the new guideline says that "no river sand mining project, with mine lease area less than five hectare, may be considered for granting environment clearance. The river sand mining projects with minimum lease area greater than or equal to five hectare but less than 25 hectare will be categorized as B2".

"The area equals or exceeds 25 hectare (separately or in cluster) will become category B1 project under the EIA Notification, requiring tougher rule for green nod," says the norm.

Under the 2006 notification, the category A projects — comprising big national projects — get environmental clearance from the central government whereas category B activities come before the respective state or Union Territory for final decision.

The categorization of Category B projects/activities into Category B1 and B2 will help the states in taking quick decision.

The Times of India (27-12-2013)