Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important tool for integrating the objectives of environmental management into the decision making process to ensure environmentally sound and sustainable development. Earlier, any developmental project/activity were reviewed keeping in view the technical feasibility and financial viability of the project only. However, with the introduction of concept of EIA the environmental considerations have also been included as one of the factors to be considered while deciding about the feasibility and sustainability of any developmental/industrial project/activity. In fact, the main purpose of EIA is to mitigate adverse environmental impacts (if any) of any project/activity and bringing them to an acceptable level and to project the community likely to be affected by the proposed project. In India, EIA was started in 1976-1977 to examine the river valley projects from environmental angle. But during that time it lacked legislative support. On 27th of January 1994, EIA notification [under the environmental (Protection) Act (1986)] was issued by which EIA process became “statutory requirement” rather than an “administrative requirement” for a number of projects/activities likely to have significant environmental impacts and health implications. Since then, the EIA notification has undergone several amendments incorporating provisions for “Public Hearing” and bringing in several important projects/activities into the purview of EIA, requiring “Environmental Clearance” by Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Govt of India. To further improve the EIA procedure in India, EIA notification was revised on September 14th, 2006.
The Environment Impact Assessment Notification which was notified on 14th September, 2006 supersedes the 1994 EIA Notification. The purpose of the notification is to impose certain restrictions and prohibitions on new projects and activities, or on the expansion or modernization of existing projects and activities based on their potential environmental impacts. A prior environmental clearance must be obtained either from the Central Government or the State (or Union Territory) Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, constituted by the Central Government under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
Based on the directives given by the Department of Environment (DOE), every project report for a new mining venture is now required to contain a chapter on the “Environment Impact Statement” or “Environment Impact Assessment”. The project can not be undertaken unless all the implications of a possible environmental pollution and eco-degradation are appraised, and the proposal for environmental management of mining and ancillary operations is cleared by a high level inter-disciplinary Environmental Appraisal Committee. Without EIA clearance, the Planning commission does not clear funds for the public sector projects.