Centre extends tenure of environmental clearances

Some projects had ‘high gestation‘ period due to several variables beyond the control of project proponents, says the Ministry

April 16, 2022 08:18 pm | Updated April 17, 2022 03:02 pm IST - NEW DELHI

According to the Ministry, projects are delayed due to geological surprises, red tape and local issues. File

According to the Ministry, projects are delayed due to geological surprises, red tape and local issues. File

Easing norms for infrastructure projects, the Union environment ministry has extended the tenure of environmental clearances (EC) granted for existing or new projects.

The EC for river valley projects will now have a 13 year validity, nuclear power projects, or those involving the processing of nuclear fuel 15 years. Projects and activities other than the mining and river valley projects will have their EC valid for 10 years.

Explaining its rationale, the Ministry said in its gazette notification that nuclear power projects and hydropower projects had “high gestation” period due to “geological surprises, delays in forest clearance, land acquisition, local issues, rehabilitation and resettlement, etc., which are often beyond the control of project proponents and in this context, the Central Government “deems it necessary” to extend the validity of Environmental Clearance (EC) for such projects.

An EC is a long-drawn process that is mandatory for projects beyond a certain size and often involves an environment impact assessment of a potential project and sometimes public hearings involving the local populace who might be affected by the project.

“And whereas, for other projects also, considering the time taken for addressing local concerns including environmental issues related to the implementation of such projects, the Central Government deems it necessary to extend the validity of such ECs,” the notification dated April 12th added.

One of the conditions of an EC is that a project must begin construction in the period that it has been granted an EC and if unable, a fresh process must begin. This leads to projects being financially unviable.

Mining leases are now granted for a period of fifty years but the Environment Clearance is valid for thirty years. “The Central Government deems it necessary to align the validity of mining ECs which is currently permissible up to a maximum duration of thirty years, subject to review and appropriate environmental safeguards,” the note says.

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