The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has implemented amendments that will evaluate and rank the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of different states based on the time it takes to clear requests. While the government has stated that the rating is solely for the purpose of improving governance speed, there are concerns that it would lead to the approval of environmentally harmful projects.
The topic has a very high chance of being asked in IAS Prelims as an Environment Question or Current Affairs Question, as it has been in the news recently.
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About Star Rating System of Environment Ministry
With this new system, the Union Environment Ministry will rate and incentivise the states. The government will identify states that efficiently offer environmental clearances in a short period of time. It will then provide incentives for such states to exist. The star rating system assigns states points on a scale of one to seven for this. For completing a project in less than 80 days, the states gain two points. One point for clearing in less than 105 days. If you clear more than this amount of time, you’ll get a zero. One mark is given if the state has fewer than 10% of projects for inspection, and so on.
The SEIAA will receive a star rating from the system. The ranking is based on the authority’s performance over the previous six months. The ratings are updated at the end of each month. The average time which could be taken to give permission has dropped to 75 days. It had been 105 days previously. The 105 days period is compliant with the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification of 2006.
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Criteria of Assessment
The system will employ below 6 criteria to assess a particular State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA):
- Proposals that have been on hold for a period of more than thirty days.
- Proposals for Terms of Reference, which have been on hold for more than 30 days.
- Percentage of new terms of reference that were disposed off in the past 6 months.
- Number of environmental clearances pending for a period of more than 105 days
- Complaints reassessed.
- The number of site visits.
Agencies will be given two marks if they pass proposals in an average of 80 days. If they take more than 105 days, they will receive one mark; if they take between 105 and 120 days, they will receive 0.5; however, if they take more than or equal to 121 days, they will receive zero mark. Regardless of the time consumed, the agencies will not receive any negative scores.
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To make it easier to do business in India. The cabinet secretaries met in the year of 2021 to discuss ways to improve the ease of doing business in India. The decision was made to make the environmental clearance procedure quicker and easier by using a star rating system.
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- Pressure on state authorities to give approvals more quickly will result in hurried decisions that are not properly reviewed.
- These developments, together with a spate of legal amendments to environmental regulations adopted by the government over the last year, have the potential to erode India’s already shaky environmental protections.
- Easier compliance requirements and speedier proposal processing might lead to situations where projects cause significant environmental damage.
- Environmental governance will be skewed by the pressures of speed, efficiency, and incentivisation, and it may become pro-business rather than pro-environment.
- It also generates artificial rivalry between states, which could lead to firms locating in areas that provide quicker environmental clearance, disregarding the environment.
- The proposed framework violates certain provisions of the Environmental (Protection) Act. The goal and objective is to complete the job in a short amount of time, while environmental clearances must focus on the environment’s health, how the project will affect the environment, and what can be done to mitigate the project’s environmental losses.
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