In the year 1994, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Govt. of India released a notification making it mandatory for personnel associated with developmental projects to get environmental clearance from central or state ministries. With the release of the new EIA notification of 2006 along with its consequent amendments, the procedure became more elaborate also addressing the limitations of the previous EIA notification of 1994. The current procedure now involves a rigorous and time consuming filling up of documentation both online on the Parivesh portal as well as offline.
Parivesh portal is a digital platform updated and maintained by MoEF&CC. It has been developed to submit and track proposals requiring environmental, forest, wildlife and CRZ clearance from district, state and central level authorities. The portal also has options for editing proposals, displaying the application status, agenda for new meetings and displaying minutes of past meeting, etc.
All activities under the schedule of EIA notification, 2006 follow a common route towards online submission with a different set of questions for each activity with pre-registration of the agency requiring clearance.
Out of all the projects/activities requiring a new environmental clearance, projects under Activity 8 (Building /Construction projects/Area Development projects and Townships) of Schedule of EIA Notification, 2006 can follow the subsequent steps online:
Step 1: For new proposals, the users need to click on the “approvals” option on the first page that pops up after login, where they may choose “whether applying for a new proposal” option. The option takes the user to the initial questionnaire which is time-bound and cannot be edited once submitted. The questionnaire asks the user for basic details of the new project including the category it falls into, project name and its area details along with the benefits it will generate in social, financial and environmental terms, among other details. For activity 8 projects, the category is either B1 or B2 for state and in case the permission is required from the centre if there is no state committee then category A. After careful submission, the portal generates the first proposal number that is to be used while tracking the proposal in its draft stage.
Step 2: The second page is, again, uneditable and generates another proposal number for tracking purposes. The page automatically fills up most of the details from the registration form and the initial questionnaire. The remaining questions mainly concern the type of clearance required (like fresh, modification or others) and about the public hearing. For Activity 8 clearances, a public hearing is not required as per EIA notification, 2006. A word document converted to PDF stating the reason for exemption of such projects is to be uploaded and the same reason is to be added in the question supporting the document. For category B1 projects, Terms of Reference (ToR) is required.
After step 2, the subsequent pages can then be kept in the draft for editing later and these show options as per the activity are chosen and the hierarchy level chosen. The following steps show the procedure to obtain clearance from the centre.
Step 3: The first section is about certified compliance. Details regarding the obtained report are to be filled up. A certified compliance report is applied for in case of expansion or modernization of projects while for new projects, a PDF stating that the project is a new project is uploaded. Other mandatory details in the section are filled at random since there is no report for new projects. The section about expansion requires details on existing and new built-up area and plot area of the project in the units given on the portal. The configuration section requires details about the accessories of the projects such as EWS, dwelling units, swimming pool, clubhouses or others. Some amount of expenditure within the setup of the project is allocated for Environment Management (capital and recurring) and Certified Emissions Reduction (CER) (as per guidelines) which is entered here as well. Using Google Earth and Survey of India Toposheet, further details on the location are added. For new projects, the details about EAC meetings and Consent to Operate (CTO) are filled randomly while expansion or modernization of such projects requires correct details from previous agendas of meetings held and CTO obtained from the authorities.
Step 4: This step concerns the project’s general conditions and specific conditions as per EIA notification, 2006 and details regarding the raw materials/essential for the project (not applicable for Activity 8 projects). This step helps in identifying the neighbourhood and impact on it.
Steps 5 to 6: For every new project, monitoring is done at the proposed site to collect environmental baseline. This is required to assess the acceptability of developmental projects in the proposed site, with respect to environmental parameters.
Step 7: For submission of EC applications, air dispersion details are filled up that take into consideration the air quality impacts and impacts that will be caused by setting up of stacks. Gases such as Nox, So2, PM10 and PM2.5 and the proposed development of diesel generators, boilers, etc. are considered for monitoring the site and preparing reports. The impacts are revealed through sample modelling. Details on groundwater presence, water requirement for the project, its perusal and permission for the same are also filled for checking the demand and supply of water in the area. Generation and management of different types of solid waste such as biodegradable, non-biodegradable, electronic and plastic through the proposed project are also checked through this step as per the different rules.
Step 8: This step requires information on generation and management of wastewater and electricity and land requirements of the project. The specifications of the wastewater treatment technologies such as Sewage Treatment Plant (STPs) and Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) are determined by making water balance sheets. All wastewater has to be managed by the project and not left indisposed. The permission for electricity supply and use is required at this stage along with the details on present land use of the site (forest, water body or other conversions) and which kind of activity will take place at the site.
Step 9: While applying for ECs, the state and the central authorities also check the project surroundings up to a 10 km radius to particularly assess tree cover and diversion of water bodies. This identifies the pressures (and diversion/protection of the same if need be) of the neighboring sites – such as wildlife corridors, critically polluted areas, settlement areas, forest areas, water bodies, Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZs) – will face due to the project. In case any Government declared protected site is present, then special permission has to be taken from the competent authority for setting up the project. For nearby forest areas or ESZs, the authorities generally ask for preparation of Ecology and Biodiversity reports containing wildlife conservation plans and funds for the protection of the same.
Step 10: After filling up requirements and management techniques of the project, the portal asks for the benefits the area is going to derive from the project such as number of people employed, increase in green cover and funds allocated for plantation activities. This step also requires the details of court cases pending and the certified consultant hired for the project. If the consultant is not NABET certified for different sectors, then the project will not be accepted by the Ministry.
Step 11: In this step, a summary of the building details have to be given which will then be correlated with the amount of rainwater that will be stored, minimized as run-off as well as can be used as storage according to the capacity of the pits and or ponds.
Step 12: In this step, project details have to be filled in elaborately. The step ends by asking information on energy-saving, parking facilities, traffic management and potential impacts of dredging, disposal or any other underground activity (all issues pertaining mining activities). This step mainly looks at how other environmental aspects are managed or taken care of.
Step 13: All the offline documents pertaining the project have to be uploaded such as the architectural design of the building, forms, EIA report, plans, legal documents as well as the agency making the consultant legally liable to work on behalf of the agency with the Ministry. The elaborate details, as well as documented details, are also tallied with at the time of official project meetings. After careful submission, a final application number is generated which is tracked at the time of display of agendas for official meetings.
At any instance, if the automatically filled up information is incorrect then the entire procedure has to be started all over again. The incorrect proposal has to be deleted from the portal if the delete option is available or follow-ups have to be done with the ministry for deletion (which was what I had to do my first time after a laborious four-hour hard work). So, if you ever do this, BE CAREFUL!
All screenshots taken from the Parivesh Portal of Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change.