Green panel clears Central Vista projects
An expert panel of the Environment Ministry has accorded environmental approval to ancillary projects that are part of the construction of a new Parliament, including a new residence for the Prime Minister, common Central Secretariat buildings, Central Conference Centre, a building for the Special Protection Group and a Vice-President’s Enclave among others. The environmental clearance for the new Parliament building has already been accorded earlier this year.
These are to be built by the Central Public Works Department at a cost of Rs. 13,500 crore. Environmentalists have said that the project is not being considered as a single project and broken up piece-meal to obscure its true environmental impact. Several of the legal obstacles to the project coalesced and were taken up to the Supreme Court which ultimately cleared it.
The work on the project has continued despite the second week of lockdown in the Capital that has brought most construction sites to a grinding halt. The construction work for the project has been brought under the ambit of “essential services,” a move condemned by the Opposition. (The Hindu)
Panel raises concerns over Andaman water aerodrome project
The Union environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) has raised several concerns about the environmental impact of constructing a water aerodrome at Swaraj Island, formerly Havelock Island, in Andaman and Nicobar. The aim of the project, part of the Centre’s Udan scheme (for regional airport development), is to connect remote areas of the island to Port Blair to promote tourism “resulting in growth in economic condition,” the minutes of the EAC meeting stated.
The aerodrome will involve the loss of 3,500 sq m of forest land which has been transferred to Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation Ltd (ANIIDCO). However, the management plan submitted by Andaman and Nicobar Administration does not address the impact on the mangroves due to the project. The EAC found the EIA report inadequate. The study on biodiversity should be conducted by any national lab, it added.
The EAC also asked for comprehensive risk analysis for sea-plane crashing/catching fire at the sea-aerodrome, status of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance at the state and central level and reassessment of the impact of the noise level during landing and take-off on the fauna in the area. Galathea in Great Nicobar is among the most important and largest nesting sites for leatherback turtles in India. (Hindustan Times)
Environment ministry eases norms for industry expansion
The environment ministry has allowed companies operating in several industries, including some polluting ones, to expand capacities on the basis of a self-certification that this will not “increase the pollution load”, creating room for potential misdeclaration (and misuse), especially in light of a traditionally poor monitoring regime.
The ministry released a user manual for online submission of an undertaking on no increase in pollution load due to expansion, on its Parivesh website. This follows a notification issued by the ministry on March 2 which states that the Centre deems it necessary to permit an increase in production capacity of processing, production and manufacturing sector with or without any change in raw material-mix or product-mix or any change in configuration of the plant without the requirement of prior environmental clearance provided that there is no increase in pollution load.
The March 2 notification is applicable to industries such as coal washing, mineral processing, pesticides, fertilizers, synthetic chemicals such as paint, cement, petrochemicals, and sugar, some of which do have a significant environmental footprint. (Hindustan Times)
Punjab specifies the share of hydropower in its Renewable Purchase Obligation trajectory
The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has invited comments, suggestions, and objections to the staff paper for revising the renewable purchase obligation (RPO) regulations to factor in hydropower purchase obligation (HPO).
One of the key points that stood out in the directive was the Ministry of Power’s push for hydropower. Hydropower purchase obligation will be met from large hydro projects, including pumped storage projects with over 25 MW.
In keeping with the notification, the Commission has proposed to amend PSERC (RPO and its compliance) Regulations, 2011. The government has issued a revised trajectory of the RPO, including chalking out a long-term course for HPO for projects commissioned after March 8, 2019, to achieve the target of 30 GW of hydropower by 2029-30. Earlier the RPO trajectory did not specify hydropower. The amendments proposed by the staff paper now include the share of hydropower in the non-solar RPO trajectory. (MERCOM India)
Polavaram backwaters has no impact on Telangana, AP government reiterates at Polavaram Project Authority meeting
The Andhra Pradesh state government has once again made it clear to the Polavaram Project Authority that the land in Telangana will not be flooded at all due to the backwater impact of the Polavaram project. It said that a joint survey has been conducted with Telangana Water Resources Department officials on the impact of the project backwater on the Kinnerasani and Murredu tributaries and details will be sent to the Central Water Commission (CWC) within 12 months.
The government said that according to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Declaration-2006, Gram Sabhas should be held within 45 days of the issuance of the notification, stating that the Governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh have not yet held Gram Sabhas in flood-prone areas.
The government clarified that the construction work of the project which has an estimated flood flow of 50 lakh cusecs is being carried out in accordance with the orders of the National Green Tribunal. (The Hans India)
This is a roundup of important policy matters from April 28 - May 11, 2021. The news this week is available here.