CA, CS, CMA, Advocates are available for Free Consultation!!!

   +91 85400-99000   A98, Nanhey Park, Uttam Nagar, New Delhi, India

Environment Clearance

Are you planning on starting a new project in India? Before you start construction, it is crucial to obtain environmental clearance from the central or state ministries. The process can seem daunting and confusing, but with the recent development of the Parivesh portal, obtaining clearance has become more streamlined. In this article, we will guide you through the steps involved in obtaining environmental clearance in India, and give you some tips on how to make the process smoother. Let’s get started!

1. What is environmental clearance in India?

Environmental clearance is a process required in India for assessing the impact of a project on the environment and people, with the aim of mitigating its effects. The process covers 39 different types of projects, including screening, scoping, and evaluation to ensure compliance with existing siting guidelines. The first step is for the project proponent to identify the location of the proposed plant and conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study to determine whether it falls in category A or B. For category B projects, a state-level Pollution Control Board evaluates and assesses the quality and quantity of effluents generated by the proposed unit. A mandatory public hearing is conducted for certain developmental projects, which allows the public to express their concerns. The project proponent then submits an application for environmental clearance with the Ministry of Environment and Forests or the state government, depending on the project category. An Environmental Appraisal Committee reviews the application and makes recommendations for approval or rejection. The clearance or rejection letter is then issued, and the stakeholders and government work together to minimize harm to the environment and reduce the project’s impact. However, challenges remain, including insufficient EIA reports, low public consultation, and poor quality EIA professionals. The way forward should focus on transparency, accountability, trained professionals, and penalizing violators to ensure a safer environment for all. 

2. 39 projects requiring environmental clearance

The Indian government has mandated that 39 types of projects require environmental clearance before their installation or modification. The purpose of environmental clearance is to evaluate the project’s impact on the environment and people and institute measures to minimize potential harm. To begin the process, project proponents must ensure compliance with existing siting guidelines and identify the proposed plant location. The project proponent must then assess if the proposed activity or project falls under the purview of environmental clearance. If a project falls under B category, it goes to the state government for clearance.

Before clearance, the investor must submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and propose control measures to be assessed by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). The board evaluates and assesses the quality and quantity of effluents and issues a NOC if the proposed unit meets all the prescribed effluent and emissions standards. A public hearing is a mandatory step in the process for certain developmental projects where people of an area can express their concerns. Finally, one submits an application for environmental clearance to the MoEF if the project falls under Category A and to the state government if it falls under Category B.

To ensure public input, public participation is an essential first step for an unbiased and transparent decision-making process that results in the best environmental outcomes. The sort of consultation varies depending on the project, ranging from public consultation to public involvement. Nonetheless, public participation is an essential component for all project kinds. The EMP is a blueprint of proposed activities along with mitigation measures. Compliance with environmental clearance laws is crucial and can be maintained with the help of Corpbiz. 

3. Steps to assess impact on environment and people

When comes to obtaining environmental clearance for a project in India, it’s important to be aware of the steps involved in assessing the impact of the proposed project on the environment and people. These steps include:

– Identifying the location of the proposed plant, ensuring compliance with existing siting guidelines, and assessing whether the project falls under the purview of environmental clearance.
– Conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study if the project falls in B category, or if it is mentioned in schedule of the notification.
– Approaching the concerned State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and State Forest Department (if forestland is involved) to evaluate the quality and quantity of effluents to be generated by the proposed unit, and obtain consent to establish.
– Conducting a mandatory public hearing prior to obtaining the NOC from SPCB, which allows people in the area to express their concerns.
– Submitting an application for environmental clearance with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) if it falls under Project A category, or with the state government if it falls under Project B category.
– Scrutinizing the documents submitted by the investor, holding consultations with experts, and making recommendations for approval or rejection of the project.

It is important to follow these steps to ensure compliance with existing regulations and to minimize the impact of the proposed project on the environment and people. As the DRAFT Guidance Manual for Environmental Impact Assessment and Clearance of River Valley Projects states, “Environmental clearance is not just a procedural requirement but a vital step towards sustainable development.” 

4. Importance of complying with existing siting guidelines

Complying with existing siting guidelines is of utmost importance in the environmental clearance process in India. Ensuring that the proposed location aligns with the guidelines will help in minimizing negative impact on the environment and the people living in the area. It is the responsibility of the project proponent to identify an appropriate location and conduct a site analysis before proceeding with the project. In case the site doesn’t match with the siting guideline, the proponent needs to look for an alternative site. The guidelines provide standards and criteria that the project must meet in terms of location, size, technology to be used, and other aspects. The main objective of these guidelines is to prevent or reduce negative impacts on the environment and human health. Compliance with the siting guidelines is mandatory and non-compliance may lead to the rejection of the project proposal. The guidance manual by the Ministry of Environment and Forests provides detailed information and requirements for compliance with the siting guidelines. The manual also provides various methodologies like the ad-hoc method, checklist, matrix, etc. for conducting the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study. Complying with the siting guidelines is the first step towards a legally compliant environmental clearance process and a responsible approach towards sustainable development. As rightly put by the manual, “Sustainable development is a concept for environmental planning and management that seeks long term economic viability, social equity and environmental harmony”. 

5. Environmental clearance for project falls in B category

When it comes to the environmental clearance process in India, projects that fall under the B category require a different approach. If a project falls under this category, it means that it doesn’t require preparation of EIA reports. However, it still requires clearance from the state government. The investor needs to assess the proposed activity or project and determine whether it falls under the purview of environmental clearance. If it’s listed in the notification, an EIA study is conducted either directly or through a consultant.

Assuming the project falls in the B category, the investor needs to approach the concerned State Pollution Control Board and the State Forest Department (if the location involves use of forest land). The SPCB evaluates and assesses the quantity and quality of effluents likely to be generated by the proposed unit as well as the efficacy of the control measures proposed by the investor to meet the prescribed standards.

If the SPCB is satisfied that the proposed unit will meet all the prescribed effluent and emissions standards, it issues consent to establish, popularly known as NOC. This NOC is valid for 15 years.

It’s important to note that the environmental clearance process for projects in the B category is different from those in the A category. The investor needs to follow the proper steps and obtain clearance from the state government to avoid any delays and legal issues. 

6. Obtaining consent to establish from SPCB

To establish a new industry or project in India, project proponents must obtain a Pollution NOC from the Pollution Control Board. This NOC comes in two stages – CTE and CTO – and must be obtained before starting production. The project proponent needs to secure this consent to ensure that the industry or project maintains standards related to its operations.

To obtain consent to establish from SPCB, the project proponent needs to submit all documents in serial order, as given by SPCB, along with scrutiny fees through the online portal. The list of supporting documents includes a duly filled application form, proof of ownership or lease deed of land, a detailed project report, consent form from the concerned authorities, and more.

It’s important to note that depending on the category of the industry or project, the consent to operate may need periodic renewal and can vary from state to state. The CPCB re-categorizes industries, projects, or activities under the Water (P&CP) Act 1974 into three major categories – Red, Orange, and Green. The Consolidated List of Industries categorizes various industries or projects that require CTO.

To quote the DRAFT Guidance Manual for Environmental Impact Assessment and Clearance of River Valley Projects, “The project proponent shall obtain environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change for expansion and modernization of existing projects or setting up new projects including changes or modifications of existing projects listed in Schedule.” Hence, obtaining consent to establish from SPCB is crucial to ensure industrial operations conform to environmental regulations. 

7. The mandatory public hearing for developmental projects

Develop projects have a major impact on the environment, and it is important to ensure that they are built while respecting the environment. One step towards ensuring the same is the mandatory public hearing for developmental projects. As per the EIA notification of 2006, all building /construction projects, area development projects, and townships under Activity 8 require prior environmental clearance. While most of these clearance processes are online, one essential aspect that needs offline intervention is the public hearing.

The public hearing is mandatory for all developmental projects, where the concerned authorities and the general public are called upon to air their views on the project. This allows for transparency in the process and ensures that the opinions of all stakeholders are taken into consideration. A word document stating the reason for exemption of the public hearing for category B1 projects is uploaded for scrutiny. One can request for the recording of the public hearing and minutes of the same, which are displayed on the same portal after the hearing. As the guest blogger Srishti Manna on Green Lens points out: “The hearing is an application of the governments effort to bring justice to the carrying capacity of an area and its natural resources. It’s beneficial to those individuals and villages who are unaware of the consequences that the developmental projects may carry.”

Therefore, the public hearing is a vital step in obtaining environmental clearance in India that ensures that developmental projects are sustainable and environmentally sound. 

8. Submitting an application for environmental clearance

Submitting application for environmental clearance is the first step towards securing permission for your development project in India. The process has become more elaborate and time-consuming with the new EIA notification of 2006, which requires filling up detailed documentation both online on the Parivesh portal as well as offline. But don’t be intimidated by the process, it can be broken down into simple steps.

Firstly, for new proposals, users need to click on the approvals option on the first page that pops up after login, and then choose the option for a new proposal. The initial questionnaire asks for basic details of the new project including the category it falls into, project name and its area details, and the benefits it will generate in social financial and environmental terms, among other details.

After submitting the initial questionnaire, the portal generates a proposal number for tracking purposes, which is important for keeping track of the progress of the proposal in its draft stage. The subsequent pages can then be kept in the draft for editing later and these show options according to the activity and hierarchy level chosen.

“The online submission process is time-bound and requires careful submission of all the required details,” says Srishti Manna, a wildlife enthusiast and expert in environmental regulations. “Projects under Activity 8 of Schedule of EIA Notification 2006 can follow the subsequent steps online.” 

9. Environmental appraisal and recommendation for approval

Environmental appraisal and recommendation for approval are essential steps in the process of environmental clearance in India. The process starts with a preliminary scrutiny of the proposals by a multi-disciplinary staff in the Ministry of Environment and Forests who may also undertake site-visits and consult with experts if necessary. The proposals are then presented before the Environmental Appraisal Committees, which have been constituted for each sector such as River Valley, Industries, and Mining, to appraise the projects. The committees may also decide to arrange for public hearings on certain controversial projects to ensure public participation in developmental decisions.

The Appraisal Committees make their recommendations for approval or rejection of particular projects based on the exercise described in the foregoing paragraphs. The recommendations of the Committees are then processed in the Ministry of Environment and Forests for approval or rejection. In case of certain very special/controversial projects which have aroused considerable public interest, the committee may also decide to arrange for public hearings to ensure public participation in decision-making.

It is important to note that the clearance or rejection letter for a project is based on the recommendations of the Environmental Appraisal Committees. The committee may recommend changes or modifications to the proposed project to minimize its impact on the environment and people. As stated in the DRAFT Guidance Manual for Environmental Impact Assessment and Clearance of River Valley Projects, the purpose of the environmental clearance process is to assess the impact of the planned project on the environment and people and to try to abate/minimize it. Thus, the recommendations of the Environmental Appraisal Committees are crucial in ensuring sustainable development and the protection of the environment in India. 

10. Process for clearance or rejection letter issuance

The of obtaining Environmental Clearance (EC) is crucial for 39 types of projects in India. This process aims to analyze the impact of a proposed project on the environment and people to minimize or prevent negative consequences. The process involved in EC consists of several steps, which includes the identification of the location of the proposed plant, assessment of the proposed activity/project, and evaluation of its impact on the environment. A comprehensive report is then prepared, and authorities like the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) evaluate it to ensure that the proposed unit meets all the prescribed standards. Once the SPCB issues a consent to establish, the project proponent can move forward to the next stage of approval.

One mandatory step in the process of EC is public hearing, which is a legal platform for people in the area to express their concerns about the project face-to-face with the government and the project proponent. After the hearing, the project proponent applies for EC to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) or state government, depending on the category of the project (A or B). The documents submitted by the project proponent are first reviewed by the MoEF, which then present it before the Environmental Appraisal Committee for sector-specific appraisal. If the approval is granted, the investor receives clearance or rejection letters from the ministry.

Overall, this process ensures that projects are developed with minimal damage to the environment while promoting sustainable growth. As the process involves many stakeholders, the procedure may take time, but it is necessary to ensure a sustainable future. 

11. Frequently Asked Questions about Environment Clearance in India

Here are 11 frequently asked questions about environment clearance in India:

1. What is environmental clearance, and why is it necessary?

“Environmental clearance is the process of obtaining permission from the government to implement a specific project that may impact the environment. It is mandatory under the law and ensures that the project is sustainable and does not negatively affect the environment.”

2. Who grants environmental clearance in India?

“As per the EIA Notification 2006, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is responsible for granting environmental clearance for projects.”

3. What types of projects require environmental clearance?

“All projects listed in Schedule 1 of the EIA Notification 2006 require environmental clearance, while projects listed in Schedule 2 require a screening process to determine if they need clearance.”

4. How long does it take to obtain environmental clearance?

“It can take up to several months to a year to obtain environmental clearance, depending on the project’s scale and complexity.”

5. What is the procedure for obtaining environmental clearance?

“The procedure for obtaining environmental clearance involves filling up an online/offline application form and submitting it to the relevant authorities. It also involves conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, public consultation, and other necessary formalities.”

6. What is the purpose of public consultation in the environmental clearance process?

“The public consultation process allows the public to voice their concerns or objections to the proposed project and ensures transparency in the decision-making process.”

7. What are the penalties for not obtaining environmental clearance?

“For projects that require environmental clearance, failure to obtain clearance can result in hefty fines and imprisonment.”

8. Can a project proceed without environmental clearance?

“No, it is illegal to proceed with a project without obtaining environmental clearance.”

9. What happens if a project has already started without obtaining environmental clearance?

“Such projects are deemed unauthorized and may face legal action, including being ordered to stop work and financial penalties.”

10. What are the consequences of not following the environmental safeguards and conditions stipulated for a project during the clearance process?

“Not complying with the environmental safeguards and conditions during the clearance process may result in revocation of the clearance, financial penalties, or legal action.”

11. How long is the validity of environmental clearance?

“The validity of environmental clearance is project-specific and can range from 5 to 10 years, depending on the project’s scale and complexity.”