Highway projects of strategic and defensive importance that are located 100 km from the Line of Control, among other locations, are exempt from an environmental clearance before construction, according to a notification made by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change amending the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Rules.
A proposed project or development’s potential environmental effects are assessed through the EIA process. The assessment also considers the socioeconomic impact on the neighbourhood residing in the proposed project area as well as the influence on human health.
Cleared for contentious project
The controversial Char Dham project, which entails widening of 899 km of roads in ecologically sensitive areas of Uttarakhand to improve connectivity to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri shrines, will no longer require green clearance thanks to the exemption to be given to highways of strategic importance. The Supreme Court is currently hearing the issue and has formed a powerful committee to investigate the situation.
The ministry has created a number of exclusions to obtaining this environmental clearance in its most recent revision to the Rules, which was issued on July 14.
Thermal power plants up to 15 MW based on biomass or non-hazardous municipal solid waste that use auxiliary fuel like coal, lignite, or petroleum products up to 15% have also been exempted – as long as the fuel blend is environmentally favourable, per the announcement. The statement read: “The Central Government feels it important to increase the threshold capacity for such Thermal Power Plants for which Environmental Clearance shall not be required in order to stimulate such activities.”
Increasing the threshold of ports that only handle fish and serve small fishermen would take into consideration issues of the livelihood security of fishermen working in fish handling ports and harbours as well as the lower pollution potential of these ports and harbours compared to others.
Two additional projects that are exempted are toll plazas that require additional width for the installation of toll collection booths to accommodate a large volume of vehicles and expansion activities at existing airports that involve the expansion of terminal buildings without increasing the airport’s current area rather than the expansion of runways, etc.
According to the announcement from the ministry, highway projects related to defence and strategic importance in border States are sensitive in nature and frequently need to be implemented on a priority keeping in mind strategic, defence, and security concerns. In light of this, the Central Government feels it necessary to exempt such projects from the need for environmental clearance in border areas, provided that they follow a specific standard operating procedure and adhere to environmental protection standards for
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