Green impact assessment body defunct for one year, activists demand reconstitution

The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of Delhi, the body which plays a vital role in protecting the environment, has been lying defunct for the past one year.

Experts and activists have urged the Delhi government to form the new SEIAA at the earliest. The SEIAA of Delhi expired in April 2018 and has since not been reconstituted.

“The SEIAA is very important institution for securing environment justice in Delhi. The term of the Delhi SEIAA expired in April 2018 and it has not been reconstituted. With no SEIAA there is no monitoring of environment safeguards of projects such as the Signature Bridge or the Okhla waste-to-energy plant,” said Kanchi Kohli, a legal researcher with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR).

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important management tool for ensuring sustainable use of natural resources. The authority issues environmental clearance to infrastructure projects and even has the powers to issue show cause notices to project proponents in case of violation of the conditions of the environment clearances.

HT had reported on April 18 how conditions specified in the environment clearance given to the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation Limited for the Signature Bridge were allegedly violated by dumping debris into the river Yamuna and obstructing its flow.

“We received the environment clearance in February 2017. We have been regularly submitting reports to a monitoring cell formed by the SEIAA,” said a senior official of the DTTDC.

The SEIAA is a union government authority that is constituted by the state government but acts on behalf and reports to the union environment ministry. EIA has now been made mandatory under the Environmental (Protection Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of INR 50 crores and above.

“I have already asked the environment department to initiate steps so that the authority could be reconstituted at the earliest,” said Imran Hussain, environment minister of Delhi.

In December 2018, The Citizen’s Alliance, a Delhi-based NGO, had written to Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, urging him to initiate steps to reconstitute the SEIAA.

“The SEIAA not just approves Category B projects (smaller projects) listed under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006, but also ensures compliance of environment safeguards of industries, construction operations, energy and several other projects Delhi,” said Ashutosh Dikshit, founder of The Citizen’s Alliance.

The EIA notification also says that if the SEIAA hasn’t been constituted then all clearances would be given by the union ministry. This is what is happening in Delhi for the last one year.

“Several projects which have a huge bearing on Delhi’s urban design including redevelopment of colonies such as Netaji Nagar and Sarojini Nagar are all going to the union government for approval,” said Kohli.

Source: HT

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