Clearances Required Under Environment Acts For Highway Projects

    Clearances Required Under Environment Acts For Highway Projects

    S.S. Juneja, FIE (Env.), Engineer in Chief H.P. P.W.D. (Retd.)

    Preamble

    Environment Security and development progress are perceived as necessary requisites for sustainable economic growth of any country. The concepts of environmental issues have undergone qualitative changes in recent years and real advances for bringing about a well developed framework came only after the UN Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. Thereafter an extensive network of Environmental Legislation has come up and water (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act 1972 and Air (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act 1981 were notified. Environment got further impetus in India in 1984 after Bhopal disaster. A full fledged Ministry of Environment and forests (MOEF) was established in 1985. An Umbrella Legislation, “The Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (EPA) was enacted, designed to provide a frame work for the co-ordination of Central and State authorities established under the water (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act 1974 and Air (P&C) of Act 1981. It extends to whole of India. The Central Government issues relevant notifications under the EPA from time to time for the protection of Environment and ecology of sensitive areas and also issues guidelines for such matters. Such Comprehensive Acts & Rules framed, obviously places greater responsibility on planners and investors to choose ecologically feasible technologies, environmentally compatible options and alternatives for the maximisation of economic benefits without compromising the Environment and eco-system.

    Certain restrictions and prohibitions were imposed on new projects being undertaken in any part of India, unless prior environmental clearance has been accorded in accordance with National Environment Policy, including Highway under Environment Protection Act 1986 vide MOEF notification dated 27th January 1994, based on their environmental impacts as indicated in the schedule to the notification dated 27th January 1994. A further notification was issued by MOEF on 14th September 2006. This notification was amended on 1st December, 2009. As per 2009 amendment following Highway projects need prior Environment clearances from Central or State authorities so prescribed. The detail EIA notification 2006 as amended in 2009 so far as Highways are concerned is reproduced as under.

    Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006 Including Amendment of 2009.

    The Ministry of Environment and Forests has revised EIA notification, 1994 and issues the revised EIA notification on 14th September, 2006 and further issued amendments as per notification of 1st December, 2009.

    Latest notification has completely changed the process of obtaining environmental clearance. The categorisation of Projects requiring environmental clearance has also been changed. Now the new highway projects and the highway projects of more than 30km. length involving widening of the existing alignment through acquisition of more than 20mt. land will require prior environmental clearance.

    General Condition

    Clearances Required Under Environment Acts For Highway Projects
    Any highway project or activity specified in Category ‘B’ will be treated as Category A, if located in whole or part within 10 km from the boundary of: (i) Protected Areas notified under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, (ii) Critically Polluted areas as notified by the Central Pollution Control Board from time to time, (iii) Notified Eco-sensitive areas, (iv) inter-State boundaries and international boundaries.

    The Category A projects shall be appraised by the MoEF, and the category B projects by a duly constituted State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA). However, in the absence of an SEIAA, category B project will be treated as Category A Project.

    Note
    1. All Highway projects include as Category ‘A’ in the above Schedule shall require prior environment clearance from the Central Government in the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) on the recommendations of an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to be constituted by the Central Government for the purpose of this notification.
    2. All highway projects included as Category ‘B’ in the above Schedule which fulfill the General Conditions stipulated in the Schedule, will require prior environmental clearance from the State/Union territory Environment impact Assessment Authority SEIAA). The SEIAA shall base its decision on the recommendations of a State or Union territory level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) as to be constituted for in this notification. In the absence of a duly constituted SEIAA or SEAC, Category ‘B’ project shall be treated as a Category ‘A’ project.
    Procedure for Prior Environmental Clearances (EC)

    An application seeking EC in all cases shall be made in the prescribed Form-1 (Annexure ‘A’) and supplementary Form 1A, if applicable to MOEF for Category ‘A’ projects and to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) for category ‘B’ projects including proposed terms of reference for carrying out EIA along with feasibility report before commencing any construction activity or acguisian of land.

    The process comprise of four stages. These stages in sequential order are:
    1. Screening (only for category ‘B’ projects)
    2. Scoping
    3. Public Consultation
    4. Appraisal.
    Stage 1: - Screening

    This is required for category-B projects only. The SEIAA shall screen the category projects and decide as to whether EIA study is required or not for the project on the basis of Form1. If EIA is not required, it shall be catagorised as Category B2. All other projects requiring EIA study shall be categorised as category B1.

    Stage 2 – Scoping

    The expert appraisal committee (under MoEF or SEIAA) on the basis of:
    • Information furnished by the applicant in the form 1 including proposed terms of reference.
    • A site visit by a sub group of Expert Appraisal Committee only if considered necessary by the Expert Appraisal Committee.
    • Will determine the detailed comprehensive Terms of Reference (TOR) addressing all relevant environmental concerns for the preparation of Environment Impact Assessment.
    • The terms of reference (TOR) will be conveyed to the applicant by the Expert Appraisal Committee within sixty days of the receipt of Form 1 and other documents.
    • If the terms of reference are not finalized and conveyed to the applicant within Sixty days of the receipt of the Form 1 and other documents, the terms of reference suggested by the Applicant will be deemed as final reference for carrying out Environment Impact Assessment Studies. The approved terms of reference will be displayed on the website of Ministry of Environment and Forest.
    Application for prior environment clearance may be rejected by the regulatory authority concerned on the recommendation of Expert Appraisal Committee concerned at this stage itself. In case of such rejection the decision together with reasons for the same will be communicated to the applicant in writing within sixty days of the receipt of application.

    Stage 3

    Procedure for Conduct of Public Hearing

    The Public Hearing shall be arranged in a systematic, time bound and transparent manner ensuring widest possible public participation at the project site (s) or in its close proximity District-wise, by the concerned State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or the Union Territory Pollution Control Committee (UTPCC).

    The Process

    The applicant shall make a request through a simple letter to the Member Secretary of the SPCB or Union Territory Pollution Control Committee, in whose jurisdiction the project is located, to arrange the public hearing within the prescribed statutory period. In case the project site is covering more than one District or State or Union Territory, the public hearing is mandated in each District, State or Union Territory, in which the project is located and the applicant shall make separate requests to each concerned SPCB or UTPCC for holding the public hearing as per this procedure.

    The applicant shall enclose with the letter of request, at least 10 hard copies and an equivalent number of soft (electronic) copies of the draft EIA Report with the generic structure III including the Summary Environment Impact Assessment report in English and in the official language of the state/ local language, prepared strictly in accordance with the Terms of Reference Communicated after Scoping (Stage-2). Simultaneously the applicant shall arrange to forward copies, one hard and one soft, of the above draft EIA Report along with the Summary EIA report to the following authorities or offices, within whose jurisdiction the project will be located:
    1. District Magistrate/District collector/ Deputy commissioner/s
    2. Zila Parishad or Municipal Corporation or Panchayats Union
    3. District Industries Office
    4. Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) / PRIs Concerned/ Development authorities
    5. Concerned Regional Office of the Ministry of Environment and Forests
    On receiving the draft for Environmental Impact Assessment report, the above-mentioned authorities except the Regional Office of MoEF, shall arrange to widely publicize it within their respective jurisdictions requesting the interested persons to send their comments to the concerned regulatory authorities. They shall also make available the draft EIA Report for inspection electronically or otherwise to the public during normal office hours till the Public. Hearing is over.

    The SPCB or UTPCC concerned shall also make similar arrangements for giving publicity about the project within the State/ Union Territory and make available the Summary of the draft Environmental Impact Assessment report for inspection in select offices or public libraries or any other suitable location etc. They shall also additionally make available a copy of the draft Environmental Impact Assessment report to the above five authorities/ offices as given in para 2.2.4.3

    Notice of Public Hearing

    The Member-Secretary of the concerned SPCB or UTPCC shall finalize the date, time and exact venue for the conduct of public hearing within 7 days of the date of receipt of the draft Environmental Impact Assessment report from the project proponent, and advertise the same in one major National Daily and one Regional vernacular Daily/ Official State Language. A minimum notice period of 30 days shall be provided to the public for furnishing their responses.

    The advertisement shall also inform the public about the places or offices where the public could access the draft Environmental Impact Assessment report and the Summary Environmental Impact Assessment report before the public hearing. In places where the newspapers do not reach, the Competent Authority should arrange to inform the local public about the public hearing by other means such as by way of beating of drums as well as advertisement/ announcement on radio/ television.

    No postponement of the date, time, venue of the public hearing shall be undertaken, unless some untoward emergency situation occurs and then only on the recommendation of the concerned District Magistrate/ District collector/ Deputy commissioner, the postponement shall be notified to the public through the same National and Regional vernacular dailies and also prominently displayed at all the identified offices by the concerned SPCB or Union Territory Pollution Control Committee.

    In the above exceptional circumstances, fresh date, time and venue for the public consultation shall be decided by the Member- Secretary of the concerned SPCB or UTPCC only in consultation with the District Magistrate/ District Collector/ Deputy Commissioner and notified afresh as per procedure under 2.2.4.7 above.

    Supervision and Presiding over the Hearing

    The District Magistrate/ District Collector / Deputy Commissioner or his or her representative not below the rank of an Additional District Magistrate assisted by a representative of SPCB or UTPCC, shall supervise and preside over the entire public hearing process.

    Videography

    The SPCB or UTPCC shall arrange to video film the entire proceeding. A copy of the videotape or a CD shall be enclosed with the public hearing proceedings while forwarding it to the Regulatory Authority concerned.

    Proceedings

    The attendance of all those who are present at the venue shall be noted and annexed with the final proceedings.

    There shall be quorum required for attendance for starting the proceedings. A representative of the applicant shall initiate the proceedings with a presentation on the project and the Summary EIA report.

    Persons present at the venue shall be granted the opportunity to seek information or clarification on the project form the applicant, The summary of the public hearing proceedings accurately reflecting all the views and concerns expressed shall be recorded by the representative of the SPCB or UTPCC and read over to be the audience at the end of the proceedings explaining the contents in the local/ vernacular language and the agreed minutes shall be signed by the District Magistrate/ District Collector/ Deputy Commissioner or his or her representative on the same day and forwarded to the SPCB/ UTPCC concerned.

    A Statement of the issues raised by the public and the comments of the applicant shall also be prepared in the local language or the Official State language, as the case may be, and in English and annexed to the proceedings.

    The proceedings of the public hearing shall be conspicuously displayed at the office of the Panchyats within whose jurisdiction the project is located, office of the concerned Zila Parishad, District Magistrate/ District Collector/ Deputy Commissioner, and the SPCB or UTPCC. The SPCB or UTPCC shall also display the proceedings on its website for general information. Comments, if any, on the proceedings, may be sent directly to the concerned regulatory authorities and the applicant concerned.

    Time Period for Completion of Public Hearing

    The public hearing shall be completed within a period of forty five days from date of receipt of the request letter from the applicant. Thereafter the SPCB or UTPCC concerned shall sent the public hearing proceedings to the concerned regulatory authority within eight days of the completion of the public hearing. Simultaneously, a copy will also be provided to the project proponent. The applicant may also directly forward a copy of the approved public hearing proceedings to the regulatory authority concerned along with the final Environmental Impact Assessment report or supplementary report to the draft EIA report prepared after the public hearing and public consultations incorporating the concerns expressed in the public hearing along with action plan and financial allocation, item-wise, to address those concerns.

    If the SPCB or UTPCC fails to hold the public hearing within the stipulated 45 (forty five) days, the Central government in Ministry of Environment and Forests for Category 'A' project or activity and the State Government or Union Territory Administration for Category 'B' project or activity at the request of the SEIAA, shall engage any other agency or authority to complete the process, as per procedure laid down in this Notification".

    Appraisal (Stage IV)

    Appraisal means the detailed scrutiny by the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee of the application and other documents like the Final EIA report, outcome of the public consultations including public hearing proceedings, submitted by the applicant to the regulatory authority concerned for grant of environmental clearance. This appraisal shall be made by Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned in a transparent manner in a proceeding to which the applicant shall be invited for furnishing necessary clarifications in person or through an authorized representative. On conclusion of this proceeding, the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned shall make categorical recommendations to the regulatory authority concerned either for grant of prior environmental clearance on stipulated terms and conditions, or rejection of the application for prior environmental clearance, together with reasons for the same.

    The appraisal of all projects or activities which are not required to undergo public consultation, or submit an Environment Impact Assessment report, shall be carried out on the basis of the prescribed application Form 1 and Form 1A as applicable, same is considered as necessary by the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned.

    The appraisal of an application be shall be completed by the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned within sixty days of the receipt of the final Environment Impact Assessment report and other documents or the receipt of Form 1 and Form 1A, where public consultation is not necessary and the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee shall be placed before the competent authority for a final decision within the next fifteen days.

    Grant or Rejection of Prior Environmental Clearance (EC)

    The regulatory authority shall consider the recommendations of the EAC or SEAC concerned and convey its decision to the applicant within forty five days of the receipt of the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned or in other words within one hundred and five days of the receipt of the final Environment Impact Assessment Report, and where Environment Impact Assessment is not required, within one hundred and five days of the receipt of the complete application with requisite documents, except as provided below.

    The regulatory authority shall normally accept the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned. In cases where it disagrees with the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned, the regulatory authority shall request reconsideration by the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned within forty five days of the receipt of the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned while stating the reasons for the disagreement. An intimation of this decision shall be simultaneously conveyed to the applicant. The Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned, in turn, shall consider the observations of the regulatory authority and furnish its views on the same within a further period of sixty days. The decision of the regulatory authority after considering the views of the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned shall be final and conveyed to the applicant by the regulatory authority concerned within the next thirty days.

    In the event that the decision of the regulatory authority is not communicated to the applicant within the period specified in sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii) above, as applicable, the applicant may proceed as if the environment clearance sought for has been granted or denied by the regulatory authority in terms of the final recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned.

    On expiry of the period specified for decision by the regulatory authority under paragraph (i) and (ii) above, as applicable, the decision of the regulatory authority, and the final recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned shall be public documents.

    Clearances from other bodies or authorities shall not be required prior to receipt of applications for prior environment clearance of projects or activities, or screening, or scoping, or decision by the regulatory authority concerned, unless any of these is sequentially dependent on such clearance either due to a requirement of law, or for necessary technical reasons.

    Deliberate concealment and / or submission of false or misleading information or data which is material to screening or scoping or appraisal or decision on the application shall make the application liable for rejection, and cancellation of prior environmental clearance already granted, on such ground, shall be decided by the regulatory authority, after giving a personal hearing to the applicant, and following the principles of natural justice.

    Validity of Environmental Clearance (EC)

    The "Validity of Environmental Clearance" is meant the period from which a prior environment clearance is granted by the regulatory authority, or may be presumed by the applicant to have been granted under sub paragraph (iv) of paragraph 7 above, to the start of production operations by the project or activity, or completion of all construction operations in case of construction projects (item 8 of the Schedule), to which the application for prior environmental clearance refers. The prior environmental clearance granted for a project or activity shall be valid for a period of ten years in the case of River Valley Projects [item 1(c) of the Schedule), project life as estimated by Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Expert Appraisal Committee subject to a maximum of thirty years for mining projects and five years in the case of all other projects and activities. However, in the case of Area Development projects and Townships [item 8(b)], the validity period shall be limited only to such activities as may be the responsibility of the applicant as a developer. This period of validity may be extended by the regulatory authority concerned by a maximum period of five years provided an application is made to the regulatory authority by the applicant within the validity period, together with an updated Form 1, and Supplementary Form 1A, for Construction projects or activities (item 8 of the Schedule). In this regard the regulatory authority may also consult the Expert Appraisal Committee or State Level Exert Appraisal Committee as the case may be.

    Post Environmental Clearance Monitoring

    Clearances Required Under Environment Acts For Highway Projects
    It shall be mandatory for the project management to submit half-yearly compliance reports in respect of the stipulated prior environmental clearance terms and conditions in hard and soft copies to the regulatory concerned, on 1th June and 1st December of each calendar year.

    All such compliance reports submitted by the project management shall be public documents. Copies of the same shall be given to any person on application to the concerned regulatory authority. The latest such compliance report shall also be displayed on the web site of the concerned regulatory authority.

    Flow Chart for procedure for Obtaining Environmental Clearance is shown in following flowcharts.

    On Receipt of Prior Environmental Clearance Further Following Environment Related Clearances Shall be Required.

    1. Consent to establish (COE) under the Water and Air Act.
    2. Consent to operate (COO) under the Water and Air Act.
    3. Consent for handling and disposal of Hazardous waste.
    4. Consent for operating (Both COE & COO) hot mix plants, stone, crushes, concrete batch mix plants, local queries / mining worker camps including discharge from laborer camps, equipment storage yards under Air and Water Act as the case may be including consent under noise rules from concerned State Pollution Control Board.
    5. Forest Clearance (It forest areas to be diverted for the project, including notified road side plantation) under the Forest Act 1980 and rules.
    6. CRZ Clearance in coastal areas as per CRZ notification if the project area fall under CRZ -I, II, III & IV.
    7. Wild Life Protection Act 1972 in notified wildlife areas.
    8. NOC from Central Ground Water Board for drawing water in notified blocks.
    9. NOC from ASI for any construction/operation within radius of 1km (or more) with respect to monuments depending of the activities.
    Most of these approvals can be applied on line as per software/websites created by respective authorities.

    Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) & Environment Management Plans (EMP) For Highway Projects

    Clearances Required Under Environment Acts For Highway Projects
    The terms of reference (TOR) for projects requiring EIA studies are proposed by applicant in his application in form - I (Annexure - I) and approved by MOEF or SEIAA as the case may be. For highways projects usually information is divided in following main sections.

    Section 1: Introduction

    Section 2: Project Description

    Section 3: Baseline Environment of the Project Corridor

    Section 4: Environment Impacts and Mitigation Measures

    Section 5: Environment Management Plans

    Section 6: Monitoring Plans

    Section 7: Conclusion

    All these sections are further divided into various sub-topics as detailed out in approved TOR.

    Recently MOEF has also issued instructions that to improve the quality of EIA studies, EIA prepared only by accredited authorities / consultants with National Accreditation Board for Education and Training under Quality Council of India shall be accepted.

    Conclusion

    Clearances Required Under Environment Acts For Highway Projects
    Although some environment checks were prevalent even before independence, After independence main object of our country was connectivity and in this race, some environment aspects were sacrificed. But after 1972 stockholm conclave which was attended by our late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, some comprehensive legislative measures were initiated which brought under its umbrella infrastructure and highway projects also.

    If a systematic approach is planned it become easier to arrange approvals under Environment Acts and procedures. Now detail checklists and details are available on website of MOEF and other law enforcement authorities. These details and formats can be downloaded and application can be made either on line or on hard copies to competent authorities and approvals can be arranged in a fixed time frame.

    References

    • MOEF Notification Dt. 14th Sept, 2006 and 1st Dec, 2009 under section 3 of EPA 1986.
    • Draft document of Policy, guidelines and legal requirement for highway
    • EIA on Four laning of Km 163.40 to 180.00 of Banglore-Salem-Mudrai Section of NH-7 prepared by L&T-Chennai.
    • Scheme for accreditation of EIA consultant organisation by National Accreditation Board for Education and Training issued by quality council of India issued in January 2010.

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