EXEMPTIONS FROM ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCES
24, Jan 2020
Prelims level : Environment - EIA Mains level : GS-III Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
Why in News?
- The Environment Ministry has recently issued a notification to exempt oil and gas firms from seeking environmental clearance for on-shore and offshore Drilling Explorations.
- Onshore drilling refers to drilling deep holes under the earth’s surface whereas offshore drilling relates to drilling underneath the seabed.Previously, exploratory surveys required the highest level of environmental scrutiny and were classified under category ‘A’ projects.
- The category ‘A’ project needs to prepare an EIA plan and is scrutinised by a Centrally-constituted committee of experts.
- The project would also be subject to a public hearing involving the locals of the proposed Project Site.
Key Points of the Recent Notification:
- The notification has demoted exploratory projects to the category of ‘B2’ from category ‘A’ in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process.
- Category B projects are appraised at the state leveland they are classified into two types.
1. Category B1 projects (Mandatorily requires EIA).
2. Category B2 projects (Do not require EIA).
- However, the development of an offshore or onshore drilling site as a hydrocarbon block will continue to be classified as a “category A”.
- This notification is a part of a process of ‘decentralisation’ by the Centre as it seeks to delegate more regulatory actions to State and local units.
Concerns with the Recent Move:
- The exploratory drilling process is an ecologically-intensive exercise that involves digging multiple wells and conducting seismic surveys offshore. Thus exemptions may cause loss of Biodiversity.
- The offshore drilling operations can possibly affect fish, lead to a build-up of heavy water contaminants, disorient whales and sea life.
- The risk of oil spills threatens the coastal as well as terrestrial ecosystems.
- Thus exempting the projects which has Possible Environmental concerns further Aggravates the Issue.