Environment Ministry Star Rating System

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently launched “Star Rating System”. The system provides environmental clearance in short duration.

About the Star Rating System

The Environment Ministry is to rank and incentivize the states with this new system. The ministry will find out states that provide environmental clearances efficiently in short duration of time. It will then incentivize such states. For this, the star rating system provides marks to the states on a scale of seven. The states receive two marks for clearing a project in less than 80 days. One mark for clearing in 105 days. Zero for clearing more than this duration. If the state has less than 10% of projects for scrutiny, then one mark is provided and so on.

Features

It introduces conditions for State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA). These conditions are based on the following:

  • Proposals waiting for more than thirty days
  • Terms of Reference proposals waiting for more than thirty days
  • Percentage of disposal of fresh terms of reference
  • Environmental Clearances waiting for more than 105 days
  • Complaints reassessed

The system will provide star rating to the SEIAA.  The rating is provided based on the performance of the authority in the past six months. The ratings are updated in the month end.

The average time taken to grant the clearance has been decreased to 75 days. Earlier it was 105 days. The 105 days is in accordance to the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.

Division of Powers: between centre and state

  • The system says that the infrastructure projects should be approved first by the SEIAA. For this the SEIAA shall constitute committees with environmental experts and state officers. The Category A projects, that is, those that involve forest land should be cleared by the committee constituted by the centre.
  • The projects that will be cleared by SEIAA will mostly be Category B projects. However, they form the major portion. This includes small mining, building and construction, small industry project. It includes those projects that are ‘less polluting’.

Why the new system?

To increase ease of doing business in India. In 2021, the cabinet secretaries held a meeting on improving the ease of doing business in India. They then decided to ease the environmental clearance processes through star rating system. The clearances are to be provided based on timelines and efficiency.

Concerns raised

The proposed system is in violation of Envrionment (Protection) Act. The aim and the focus is on clearing the project in short duration of time. While the environmental clearances should focus on the health of the environment, how will the project affect the environment and what can be done to reduce the environmental losses induced by the project.

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