The CAG report criticized delays at every step in projects getting environment clearances
New Delhi: India’s environment ministry and its offices have failed at every step in ensuring the environment is protected, and conditions on which projects are cleared are not monitored at all, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report released on Friday.
The report criticized delays at every step in projects getting environment clearances (ECs). It said the ministry had not penalized even a single project for violation of EC conditions.
The government on Friday tabled CAG’s performance audit of ‘Environmental Clearance and Post Clearance Monitoring’ in Parliament. The auditor analyzed projects given ECs during January 2011-July 2015.
The process of granting ECs by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) includes grant of terms of reference (ToRs), public consultations and environment impact assessment (EIA).
As per the report, out of 216 projects sampled by CAG, only in 14% of the projects were ToRs granted within the prescribed time limit of 60 days; in others there were delays of up to 365 days.
Only in 11% of the cases were the ECs granted within the prescribed time limit of 105 days. In a Kerala-based construction project a delay of 944 days was noted.
“There were delays at each stage of the EIA process. Each project is treated as a single project for EIA but cumulative EIA, which is critical in evaluating impact on environment, was found to be lacking," the report said.
The report said that while giving environment clearance to projects, there were delays at various stages like scrutiny of the final EIA reports, appraisal of the application by the expert appraisal committee (EAC), placing the recommendations of the EAC before the competent authority (the environment minister) and conveying the recommendations of EAC and the decision of MoEFCC to the project proponent.
“Regional offices of the ministry don’t have enough staff and they have not submitted half-yearly reports. The ministry agrees that there are huge gaps in monitoring whether project proponents are complying with conditions set during grant of environmental clearance. The ministry was also asked about penalties imposed on project proponents for violating environmental clearance conditions, but ministry did not reply definitively. We sourced answers from Rajya Sabha replies," said Manish Kumar, principal director at CAG, in a briefing after the report was tabled in Parliament.