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Environmental Clearance validity for hydropower, nuclear, mining projects extended

New Delhi : Close on the heels of proposed amendments in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006, the Environment Ministry has amended the notification – of extending validity of Environmental Clearance (EC) to hydro-power and nuclear projects among others.
The Ministry also did away with issuing notice under relevant clauses to seek public and expert opinion on the same as the notification, issued late on Wednesday night but dated April 12, directly mentions the changes and not proposals.
The amendments include revising EC validity for hydropower projects – also termed as river valley projects – to 13 years (plus two years after consulting the Expert Appraisal Committee), 15 years for nuclear projects, 30 years for mining projects, extendable by 20 years and 10 years for other projects, such as townships.
The EIA notification of September 2006 is for mandating prior environmental clearance for certain categories of projects. The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, while bringing about the changes also gave reasons, which were contested by the environmental experts.
The Ministry claimed that based on the past experiences, it is noted that “nuclear power projects and hydro-power projects have high gestation period due to various issues such as geological surprises, delay in Forest Clearance, land acquisition, local issues, rehabilitation and resettlement, etc., which are often beyond the control of project proponent and in this context, the Central Government deems it necessary to extend the validity of Environmental Clearance (EC) for such projects”.
Invoking the provisions of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (67 of 1957), on and from the date of commencement of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, the notification for the proposed amendment read that “all mining leases are being granted for a period of 50 years, and accordingly, the Central government deems it necessary to align the validity of mining ECs which is currently permissible up to a maximum duration of 30 years, subject to review and appropriate environmental safeguards”.
Similarly, it claimed that for other projects also, considering the time taken for addressing local concerns including environmental issues related to the implementation of such projects, the Centre deems it necessary to extend the validity of such ECs.
“The Ministry should not have done it. The situation in the river valleys is changing so fast, especially in view of climate change. It would be incorrect to assume that the conditions mentioned in the EIA would remain the same in 15 years. Moreover most EIAs do not even mention climate change,” said Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network for Dams, River and People (SANDRP).
The Ministry had on Tuesday published a set of proposals to amend the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), 2006 notification seeking exemption of environmental clearance (EC) to several projects, including defence related/border areas projects, those up to 25 MW thermal plants based on biomass or expansion of terminal building of airport.

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