Ranking of states on faster green nods

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    In News 

    • Recently, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC)has decided to “incentivise states” by ranking them through a star-rating system based on “efficiency and timelines in the grant of environmental clearances”.

    About 

    • MoEF&CC issued an office memorandum defining criteria for a rating of State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA). 
    • The evaluation of the efficiency of respective SEIAA is premised on the number of days it takes to appraise a project for environmental clearance — the faster the project appraisal, the higher the SEIAA score.

    The order lists the parameters for the rating system:

    • An SEIAA will get 2 marks if it takes less than 80 days on average for grant clearance
      • 1 for less than 105 days
      • 0.5 for 105-120 days
      •   0 for over 120 days.
    • The state authorities will also be rated on the percentage of disposal of fresh Terms of Reference (TOR) or TOR amendment proposals pending for over 30 days. 
      • After a project is screened, the authority provides the client a Terms of Reference (TOR) document which defines the purpose and structures of the project, committee, meeting, negotiation etc. 
    • The ministry has allotted 1 mark for SEIAAs which clear over 90 per cent of TORs
      • 0.5 for 80-90 per cent
      •  0 for less than 80 per cent clearance.
    • Similarly, for disposal of fresh environmental clearances as well as environmental amendment proposals pending for over 100 days, SEIAAs will get 1 mark for over 90 per cent clearance
      • 0.5 for 80-90 per cent clearance; and 0 for less than 80 per cent.
    • The state authorities will also be rewarded for seeking fewer environmental details.
      •  If the percentage of EDS (essential details sought) cases is less than 10 per cent, the SEIAAs will get 1 mark; if it is 20 per cent, they will get 0.5; and if it is over 30 per cent, they will get 0.
    •  The rating system also takes into account the disposal of complaints: 1 mark if all complaints are redressed; 0.5 if 50% complaints are redressed; and 0 for less than 50%.
      • Based on these parameters, if an SEIAA gets more than 7 marks, it will be ranked as 5-star (the highest ranking). 
      • The state authorities can be ranked as 5,4,3,2 and 1-star, depending on their cumulative score. 
        • Any SEIAA which gets a total of less than 3 marks will get no star.

    Significance  

    • The rating system will encourage transparency, efficiency and accountability. 
    • It will also improve  “ease of doing business’’
    • The move is intended as a mode of recognition and encouragement as well as for promoting improvements where needed. 
      • It also recalled how its several initiatives in the past had cut down the average time taken in the grant of Environment Clearance (EC) to 75 days as against the prescribed timeline of 105 days

    Criticism of the move 

    • The decision will reduce environmental law compliance to a mere formality as the role of SEIAA is to give nod after detailed scrutiny which takes time.
    • The environmentalists warned that the state authorities, whose mandate is to ensure the protection of the environment, will now “compete’’ to clear projects swiftly, to increase state rankings.
    •  These parameters completely put the onus of the project clearance on the authority and absolve proponents of submitting quality applications for review. 
    • There is a lack of documentation in some cases, and in others, the information provided is not sufficient to form any decision. 
    • Allocating less score if more information is sought (EDS) from the proponent during appraisal defeats the whole purpose of seeking environmental clearance and safeguarding the environment. 

    Way ahead

    • The concept of rating SEIAA to encourage its better functioning is ingenious and should be appreciated.
    •  Any undue delay needs to be discouraged but processes that bring transparency in the appraisal, such as more site visits, the inclusion of more expertise in the committees, development of a granular environmental database and ensuring uniform documentation of the environmental impact of the project by the proponent will serve as better indicators for concerned purpose .

    State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA)

    • SEIAA is a state agency that reviews specific projects enlisted in Category B of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006. 
    • These projects are considered to have a comparatively low spatial extent and potential impact on human health as well as natural and man-made resources. 
      • There are separate expert committees at the central level to deal with different project domains falling in Category A(like highways). 
    • The wide spectrum of projects in Category B extends from the mining of minerals (sand, limestone, bajri), hydroelectric power projects, metallurgical industries, cement plants, Chlor-alkali industry, leather industry, distillery, building and construction, among others.
    •  SEIAA main purpose is to assess the impact of the proposed project on the environment and people and to try and minimise this impact.

     

    Source:IE