New Delhi: Concerned over "lapses" committed by project developers in preparation of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports, the National Green Tribunal has suggested that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) evolve a mechanism to check their veracity.
A bench headed by Justice C V Ramulu said "the MoEF shall evolve a mechanism to check the correctness or otherwise, of the draft EIA prepared by the project proponent in consonance with the Terms of Reference (ToR) awarded by Environment Appraisal Committee" and said the situation is not likely to improve "unless and until" the MoEF takes steps in this regard.
All project developer are required to prepare a draft EIA reports indicating the project`s impact on environment as per the terms of reference set out by the MoEF. After the public hearing is conducted, a final report is prepared and submit to the MoEF for seeking clearances.
The Tribunal suggested that the MoEF should evaluate the draft EIA and may place the same on its website for the information of the general public before the public hearing for the project is conducted.
It said the MoEF should reject the draft report prepared by the project proponent if the same is not in consonance with the terms of reference awarded and a fresh report should be sought in such cases.
It also said that after the public hearing is conducted and final EIA report is submitted, the MoEF may again evaluate the same taking care that no "drastic variation" are there between the draft and the final EIA reports.
The Tribunal made the suggestions while dismissing a plea challenging the environment clearance granted to a 97,000 tonnes per annum steel melting shop and a 65 MW power plant developed by Salasar Steel and Power Ltd in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh.
"The appeal is devoid of merits and liable to be dismissed. However, we cannot ignore certain lapses being committed by the authorities and the project proponent in the preparation of the draft EIA and final EIA reports.
"Therefore we are of the considered opinion that unless and until the MoEF (the rule making authority) takes steps to follow the suggestions....The situation may not improve," the bench said.
The Tribunal dismissed the petition noting that there were no "substantial grounds" calling for its interference in the clearance granted for the project in July 2010.
The suggestions came in wake of submission of petitioner that important information relating to the project was not available to the public and it was difficult for the people to participate effectively in the public hearing process.
The petitioner, Raigarh-resident Ramesh Agrawal, had said there was no provision for publication of EIA reports.
The bench observed that "we are satisfied that though there are some discrepancies in the draft EIA report (on the Raigarh project) when compared to terms of reference, all the deficiencies pointed out have been adequately addressed and included with data support in the final EIA report".