The principal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has held that environmental clearance for individual minor minerals mining project cannot be granted on the basis of a regional environmental impact assessment (REIA).
The court, while explaining the difference between REIA and individual EIA, said that REIA, is quite different from a cluster or an individual EIA, which gives assessment of the entire region and involves study at a macro level of the necessary environmental parameters while an individual EIA takes into its ambits each cluster for deeper consideration of various environmental parameters at a micro level.
The NGT concluded that accepting the REIA as the cluster EIA by the project proponents for the purpose of grant of environmental clearance was fundamentally flawed.
The order was passed by a four-member bench headed by chairperson Justice A K Goel, Judicial Member Justices S P Wangdi and K Ramakrishnan, and expert member Nagin Nanda.
The National Green Tribunal in its order said that “REIA is a macro-level tool which only gives representative idea of impacts in general over in a large area. It is just an indicative tool which gives a bird’s-eye view of situation. Only the individual EIA or cluster-based EIA can bring out individual or cluster-based impacts on environment.”
The order was passed pertaining to an application challenging the environmental clearance (EC) granted based on individual EIAs abstracted from the REIA for 12 minor mineral-sand/morrum mining projects based on the rivers Betwa and Ken, situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
However, the NGT has quashed the ECs granted to all the mining leases as they failed to satisfy the requirement of the EIA Notification 2006, directions issued by the Supreme Court in Deepak Kumar case, the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016 and various office memorandums issued by the MoEF&CC in relation to it.
While quashing the ECs, the Tribunal observed “that relying solely on REIA or carving out individual EIAs from it cannot give or capture impacts at the micro or individual levels. Thus, considering the difference in the scale of studies, it would be fraught with risk and unsafe to apply the REIA study for the purpose of individual EIAs.”
The Tribunal has also mentioned that although a notification dated July 1, 2016 clarified that REIA/regional EMP was “not alien to the process of EIA”, a bare reading of the notification would show that it pertained specifically to the state of Rajasthan, which has a large number of leases or quarry licences of very small size in the contiguous area.
“For the aforesaid reasons, we hold unhesitatingly that the ECs granted to all the mining leases fail to satisfy the requirement of the EIA Notification 2006, directions issued by the Supreme Court in Deepak Kumar (supra), the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016 and the various office memorandums issued by the MoEF&CC in relation thereto. The ECs, therefore, deserve to be quashed and are accordingly ordered so,” the Tribunal said.