Centre to rank states on faster green nods, fewer details sought

News: In a controversial move, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has decided to incentivise states by ranking them on the basis of efficiency and timelines in grant of environmental clearances.

It is to be noted that the time period for providing environmental clearance to a project has already been reduced from 105 days to 75 days in order to streamline clearance processes.

What are the key points of the order?

As per Ministry’s order:

The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) which clears projects in the shortest period of time, has a high rate of clearance, and seeks fewer “essential details” will be ranked the highest.

States will be incentivised through a star-rating system, based on efficiency and timelines in grant of EC (environmental clearance).

This is intended as a mode of recognition and encouragement, as well as for prompting improvements where needed.

What is the rationale behind this move?

The decision comes in the backdrop of a meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary in November 2021. It had raised the issue of action taken to enable “ease of doing business’’, especially in the context of “ranking of states based on the time taken in according clearances’’.

What are the parameters for the rating system?

Following parameters are listed:

Marking system for the days taken for clearance is as follows –

MarksDays taken for clearance by the SEIAA
2< 80 days
1< 105 days
0.5105 – 120 days
0> 120 days

– Rating on the basis of disposal of fresh TOR: 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.

Marks% of disposal of TORs% of EDS sought
% of complaints redressed
1> 90%<10%All
0.580-90%= 20%50%
0<80%>30%< 50%

Similarly, SEIAAs will be ranked for disposal of fresh environmental clearances as well as pending environmental amendment proposals

The state authorities will also be rewarded for seeking fewer environmental details. (Environmental Details Sought)

The rating system also takes into account disposal of complaints.

Based on these parameters, if an SEIAA gets more than 7 marks, it will be ranked as 5-star (the highest ranking). Any SEIAA which gets a total of less than 3 marks will get no star.

What has been the reaction to this move?

Environmentalists have criticised this move. They’ve said that the state authorities, whose mandate is to ensure protection of the environment, will now “compete’’ to clear projects swiftly, to increase state rankings.

Moreover, the World Bank itself has discounted the principle of ease of doing business, admitting that it does not work.

Must Read: End of Ease of Doing Business rankings: Reasons and implications – Explained, pointwise
What are SEIAAs?

The SEIAAs are responsible for providing environmental clearance for a bulk of the infrastructure, developmental and industrial projects.

They are set up under the Environment Protection Act 1986.

Objective: Their main purpose is to assess the impact of the proposed project on the environment and people, and to try and minimise this impact.

In India, the biggest projects are given environmental clearances by the Environment Ministry under Category A. The SEIAAs give over 90% clearances across the country (Category B projects), primarily for construction projects.

Source: This post is based on the article “Centre to rank states on faster green nods, fewer details sought” published in The Indian Express on 20th Jan 2022.

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