Wednesday 25 May 2022
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Now environmental clearances in a jiffy

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At a well attended press conference on Tuesday, Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting and of Environment & Forests announced a slew of measures undertaken by his ministries in different sectors aimed at enhancing the outreach of policies and programmes across platforms and of fast clearance of projects. The former has been reported here (click on the link to go to the story indicated). The latter are as follows:

of money to States
With the approval of Cabinet, Draft CAMPA Order, 2014 containing provisions for of an amount of 95 % of
Rs 35,000 crore accumulated with the Ad-hoc CAMPA to inalienable non-lapsable, interest bearing to be created under public accounts of the respective States/ UTs has been filed before the Supreme Court for their approval before the same is published in the official gazette. Amounts to be realised in future in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose will also be credited directly to the said fund.

The CAMPA order envisages creation of a permanent institutional mechanism, both at Centre and each State Government, replacing the present body i.e. Adhoc Campa, with a view to ensure effective and expeditious utilisation of the accumulated funds by the States, whom the funds actually belong to, in a transparent and effective manner for the purpose of compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment, assisted natural generation, forest management, protection, infrastructure development, wildlife protection and management, relocation of villages from the Protected areas, managing human-wildlife conflicts, training and awareness generation, supply of wood saving devices and allied activities.

Five per cent funds will be retained by the National CAMPA for the purposes of monitoring and evaluation of schemes implemented in the States, setting up of institutes, societies, centre of excellence in the field of forest and wildlife, pilot schemes, standardisation of codes/guidelines etc for the sector.


As a major step to ensure that the proposals seeking grant of forest clearance are processed in time-bound and transparent manner, a web portal for online filing and monitoring the forest clearance proposal applications has been launched. The portal will minimize the need for human interface between project proponents and officials dealing with forest clearance proposals in the Central and the State Governments. The portal will enable real time monitoring of the forest clearance proposals so as to ensure that time-lines stipulated for processing of these proposals by various authorities in the Centre and State governments are adhered to. The portal also has inbuilt features to ensure that proposals complete in all respect only are accepted. Valuable time will thus not be lost to seek and obtain additional information, once a proposal seeking forest clearance has already been accepted by concerned authority in the State government. So far 34 applications have been received online for forest clearance.

Online submission of applications for terms of reference (ToR) and environment clearance (EC) has been mandated with effect from 1 July with a view to increasing in the system and facilitating early decision making. Till now, 219 applications for ToR and 46 applications for ECs have been received in the Ministry for project proposals in different sectors.

Real-time monitoring of Ganga water quality
There are 764 grossly polluting industries (discharging effluents with 100 KG BOD or more effluents) in the five States of the Ganga Basin — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal for example; 704 of these were inspected by CPCB out of which 48 industries have been issued letters and 180 industries have been issued directions under Section 5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and under Section 18 (1) (b) of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, for abatement of pollution.

There are more than 3,200 highly polluting industries (falling in 17 categories) in the country, which are monitored vigorously by the SPCBs and CPCB. Most of these industries do not have online continuous monitoring system for emissions and effluents. State Pollution Control Boards have been given directions under Section 18(1) (b) of Water Act and Section 18 (1) (b) of Air Act to get online Continuous Monitoring Station equipments installed in all of these industries by 31 2015. Directions are being monitored.

Similarly, SPCBs have been issued directions to get online continuous monitoring equipments installed in all 175 CETPs, 25 common hazardous waste incinerators and 179 biomedical waste incinerators in the country.

Benchmarks for pollution norms for cement industries upgraded
The cement industry is one of the major air polluting sector among the 17 category of identified highly polluting industries. There are about 190 large cement plants and 365 mini/small cement plants. Though, number of mini plants is more, the contribution to production is less than 10%. India is second largest producer of cement with cement production of 280 million tonnes during 2013.

Previously, emission standards for particulate matter (dust) between 50-400 mg/Nm3 were in place depending upon capacity, type and vintage of cement plant. It has been revised to 30-150 mg/Nm3 and published in gazette on 25.08.2014. International norms for Particulate Matter are between 30-100 mg/Nm3 except Germany (20/10) and the Netherlands (15). Norms for Sulphur Dioxide (100/200 mg/Nm3 against international norms between 50-500), Oxide of Nitrogen (500-800 mg/Nm3 against international norms ranging between 200-900), Wastewater and guidelines for storm water have been prescribed for the first time. In brief, the status is:

Pollution Norms

Air

Now

Earlier

Particulate Matter( mg/Nm3)

30-150

50-400

Sulphur Dioxide mg/Nm3)

100-200

not existing

Oxides of Nitrogen mg/Nm3)

500-800

not existing

Wastewater

zero discharge or comply with norms

not existing

Storm water

guidelines prescribed

not existing

Bor tiger reserve
On the recommendation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the State Government of Maharashtra has notified Bor Tiger Reserve covering an area of 138.1214 sq.km. (core /critical tiger habitat) on 16 August, 2014.

The Bor Tiger Reserve is in biodiversity with a wide variety of flora and fauna, including tiger, co-predators, prey animals and birds. The habitat is on the boundary of Nagpur and Wardha districts, amidst the Satpura-Maikal landscape, forming catchment of the river Bor. The sanctuary is also an important corridor between Tadoba-Andhari and Pench Tiger Reserves of the State.

Bor is the 47th tiger reserve in the and the 6th tiger reserve of Maharashtra. With Project Tiger coverage, the reserve would receive funding and technical support which would strengthen tiger conservation, besides eco-development to benefit fringe people.

Border roads and defence infrastructure
To expedite creation of requisite infrastructure along Line of Actual Control (LAC) the MoEF on 4 July accorded general approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest land required for construction and widening of two lane roads by the BRO/ other agencies whom the Ministry of Defence entrusts the job, in the area falling within 100 km aerial distance from the LAC and widening of link roads, between Border roads in the area within 100 km aerial distance from the LAC and National Highways/State Highways/other State roads.

The Ministry of Defence has also been requested to identify strategic defence infrastructure related activities such as Army stations, ammunition depots, training centres and other support infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, residential quarters etc. which are to be taken up in the area within 100 km aerial distance from the LAC and submit the list of such activities along with the proposal for grant of general approval under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

Maoism-affected areas
To expedite creation of road infrastructure in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts to facilitate the security forces to effectively combat left wing extremism, the ministry has extended general approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, for diversion of forest lands for construction of all categories of public roads, except those falling in the Protected areas, irrespective of the area of forest land involved, by government departments in 117 LWE affected districts.

Further, relaxation of general approval under the FC Act has been extended from for diversion of forest land from the present 1 hectare to 5 hectares for execution of public utility projects of 15 specified categories by government departments in LWE affected districts. These categories are schools, dispensaries/hospitals, medical colleges, electrical and telecommunication lines, drinking water, water/rain water harvesting structures, minor irrigation canal, non conventional sources of energy, skill up gradation/vocational training centre, power sub-stations, all category of public roads, communication posts, police establishments like police stations/outposts/border outposts/watch towers in sensitive area (identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs), Underground laying of optical fibre cables, telephone lines & drinking water supply lines, and quarrying of materials for construction of public roads. This initiative will help in faster construction of the public utilities and help in winning over the confidence of people.

Forest diversion
The ministry has decided to delegate powers to the Regional Empowered Committees (REC) to be constituted at each regional office of the ministry to finally dispose of all forest clearance proposals seeking diversion of forest land up to 40 hectare, except the proposals relating to mining, regularisation of encroachments and hydel projects. Draft Forest (Conservation) Second Amendment Rules, 2014, to provide for inter-alia constitution of the RECs at each regional office of the ministry under chairmanship of the concerned additional principal chief conservator of forests (Central) and having inter-alia 3 non-official experts in forestry and allied disciplines and two representative of the State/ UT concerned have been formulated and sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice for vetting before its publication in the official gazette.

More than 90% of proposals seeking forest clearance will now be finally disposed off by the regional office. Mere 10% of the proposals for forest clearance will come to the ministry for decision.

Linear projects
To expedite grant of forest clearance to linear projects like road, rail, canal, transmission lines and pipelines, most of which are of public utility nature, the ministry has decided to delegate powers to grant forest clearance to such projects irrespective of the area of forest land involved to the regional empowered committee being constituted at each Regional Office of the Ministry.

The ministry has also issued guidelines to provide that in case of linear projects in-principle approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, may be considered working permission for tree cutting and commencement of work, if the required funds for compensatory afforestation, net present value, wildlife conservation plan, plantation of dwarf species of medicinal plants, and all such other compensatory levies specified in the in-principle approval are realised from the user agency.

Decentralisation
Vide Notification S.O.1599 (E), 25 June 2014, more powers have been delegated to SEIAAs to grant EC to various projects. Earlier, the projects in Category ‘B’ were being appraised as Category ‘A’ at MoEF level if they were located within 10 km. of Protected Areas, Critically Polluted Areas, Eco Sensitive Areas, and Inter-state / International boundaries. Now, this distance has been reduced to 5 km. subject to stipulations stated in the aforesaid notification, implying thereby that more projects can now be considered by SEIAAs for granting ECs. Apart from this, the capacity up to which non-molasses based distilleries and mineral beneficiation activities could be considered as Category ‘B’ has been increased. Also, all bio-mass fuel based thermal power plants with capacity greater than or equal 15 MW have been put in Category B’. Earlier, such projects were considered as Category ‘A’ projects, if their capacity exceeded 20 MW.

With inputs from PIB

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Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta
Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sirf News Surajit Dasgupta has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life, the first national affairs editor of Swarajya, executive editor of Hindusthan Samachar and desk head of MyNation

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