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Environmental Clearances in India: An Overview

As we all know oxygen is very important for life and for oxygen environment plays a very important role. Environment means the aggregate of surrounding things, condition. We have separate law for environment which is called Environmental law. In Environmental law there is different law to protect Environment one of the main Environmental law aspect is Environmental impact assessment (EIA) 2006.

Environmental clearance is mandatory for the projects which can cause high environmental pollution. Government made list of those projects under EIA Notification 2006,which includes mining, thermal power plant, infrastructure (highway,ports,airports)etc Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made. These studies integrate the environmental concerns of developmental activities into the process of decision- making. EIA has emerged as one of the successful policy innovations of the 20th Century in the process of ensuring sustained development. Today, EIA is formalized as a regulatory tool in more than 100 countries for effective integration of environmental concerns in the economic development process.

The EIA process in India was made mandatory and was also given a legislative status through a Notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in January 1994. The Notification, however, covered only a few selected industrial developmental activities. While there are subsequent amendments, the Notification issued on September 14, 2006 supersedes all the earlier Notifications, and has brought out structural changes in the clearance mechanism. The basic tenets of this EIA Notification could be summarized into the following: ̇

Pollution potential as the basis for prior environmental clearance based on pollution potential instead of investment criteria; and ̇ Decentralization of clearing powers to the State/Union Territory (UT) level Authorities for certain developmental activities to make the prior environmental clearance process quicker, transparent and effective. Devolution of the power to grant clearances at the state level for certain category of the developmental activities / projects is a step forward to fulfill the basic tenets of the reengineering i.e., quicker, transparent and effective process but many issues impede /hinder its functional efficiency. These issues could be in technical and operational as listed below: Technical issues ̇ Ensuring level playing ground to avoid arbitrariness in the decision-making process ̇ Classification of projects which do not require public hearing and detailed EIA (Category B2) ̇ Variations in drawing Terms of Reference (ToR) of EIA studies for a given developmental activity across the States/UTs ̇ Varying developmental-activity-specific expertise requirement for conducting EIA studies and their appraisal ̇ Availability of adequate sectoral experts and variations in competency levels. Environmental Clearance is necessary for all the industries so that they can regualate their industries with ease But my question is: they are doing all this things with transparency?

Process are made but who will look whether the company are really following these steps there are such cases for example Bhopal gas tragedy , Vishakhapatnam etc. The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. It is considered among the world's worst industrial disasters. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas. The highly toxic substance made its way into and around the small towns located near the plant.

Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259. In 2008, the Government of Madhya Pradesh had paid compensation to the family members of 3,787 victims killed in the gas release, and to 574,366 injured victims. A government affidavit in 2006 stated that the leak caused 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related

diseases. The cause of the disaster remains under debate. The Indian government and local activists argue that slack management and deferred maintenance created a situation where routine pipe maintenance caused a backflow of water into a MIC tank, triggering the disaster. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) argues water entered the tank through an act of sabotage.

The owner of the factory, UCIL, was majority owned by UCC, with Indian Government-controlled banks and the Indian public holding a 49.1 percent stake. In 1989, UCC paid $470 million (equivalent to $845 million in 2018) to settle litigation stemming from the disaster. In 1994, UCC sold its stake in UCIL to Eveready Industries India Limited (EIIL), which subsequently merged with McLeod Russell (India) Ltd. Eveready ended clean-up on the site in 1998, when it terminated its 99-year lease and turned over control of the site to the state government of Madhya Pradesh. Dow Chemical Company purchased UCC in 2001, seventeen years after the disaster.

The Visakhapatnam gas leak, also referred to as the Vizag gas leak, was an industrial accident that occurred at the LG Polymers chemical plant in the R. R. Venkatapuram village of the Gopalapatnam neighborhood, located at the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India, during the early morning of 7 May 2020. The resulting vapor cloud spread over a radius of around 3km (1.86 mi), affecting the nearby areas and villages. As per the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the death toll was 11, and more than 1,000 people became sick after being exposed to the gas.

Preliminary investigations concluded that the accident was likely the result of insufficient maintenance of units storing the styrene monomer, improper storage, and operation errors. The Government of Andhra Pradesh announced an ex gratia of ₹1 crore (US$140,000 or €130,000) for each family of the deceased, as well as funds for the injured. A budget of ₹30 crore (US$4.2 million or €3.9 million) was allocated for the compensation of all those affected. Experts from the central government who inspected the plant said that it would have faced a catastrophe had the violation of safety norms at other storage facilities of the plant gone unnoticed for a few more days. They said those facilities were vulnerable to a leak of vapor on a larger scale and stored in a high-risk condition. An expert said polymerization was noticed in storage.

Who are responsible for these tragedies?

Environmental clearance process is required for 39 types of projects covers aspects like screening, scoping and evaluation of the upcoming project. The main purpose is access impact of the planned project on the environment and people and to try to abate/minimize the same. But the process that company need to follow do they follow, though it is necessary evil in power sector so how can these tragedies happen. For stopping these tragedies government need to strong Environment law.

Written By: Ms. Shivani Pal, 2nd Year Law Student, Allahabad State University

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