Pay a fine for breaking environmental laws and get a green nod despite violations – The New Indian Express

Express news service

NEW DELHI: In a sort of “paid amnesty program” for violators of environmental laws, the Union Environment Ministry has developed a set of standard operating procedures (SoP), providing for penalties for violations and giving post-clearance approvals.

Environmentalists said that with these guidelines, the ministry had normalized environmental violations and institutionalized the regularization of violations. The SOPs for the Identification and Handling of Violation Cases in the Context of Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, set out provisions for sanctions in two sections: new projects and drafts. expansion where work has started or has been extended without obtaining the mandatory prior approval of the ministry.

The instruction issued July 7, a copy of which is with this log, shows that for projects whose operations have not started, project promoters will be charged 1 percent of the total project cost incurred up to the date filing of the application together with the EIA report and 1 percent of the total cost of the project, plus 0.25 percent of the total revenue during the period of violation.

READ ALSO | The Ministry of the Environment asks expert assessment committees not to look for “unnecessary” details

Similar fines have been imposed for expanding projects where work has started without prior approval.

Kanchi Kohli, senior researcher, CPR-Namati Environment Justice Program, said this was strongly opposed when the EIA 2020 project was submitted for public comment, as the country grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic, whose finalization is still pending.

“Such granting of ex post approvals has also been ruled illegal by Supreme Court rulings. However, the office’s memorandum signaled that failure to comply with environmental clearances need not be a deterrent as long as fines can be paid and post-clearance approvals can be negotiated, ”she said. declared.

According to Sujit Kumar Bajpayee, co-secretary (impact assessment) at the ministry, instructions have been given to all states to immediately identify these violators and integrate them into a regulatory regime to prevent and control environmental damage caused by them. violations.