SoP to deal with Environmental Violations

News: Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to deal with environmental violations. The SOP is a result of orders from the National Green Tribunal, which earlier in 2021 directed the ministry to put in place penalties and an SOP for green violations.

Details:

  • Violations’ involving cases where construction work, including expansion of an existing project, has begun without the project proponent having acquired environmental clearance.
  • Projects that are not permissible for environmental clearance. The permissibility of the project shall be examined from the perspective of whether such activity/project was at all eligible for grant of prior environment clearance.
  • For Example:If a Red Industry (Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index (PI) score of 60 and above) is functioning in a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)-I area, which means it was not permitted at the time of commencement of the project. Therefore, the activity shall be closed.
  • PI of any industrial sector is a number from 0 to 100 and the increasing value of PI denotes the increasing degree of pollutionload from the industrial sector. It is developed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and used for categorization of industrial sectors in red, orange, green and white categories.
  • Projects in which prior environmental clearance has been accorded, but it is in violation of normsprescribed in the approval. Projects which are permissible according to environmental law but which have not acquired the requisite clearance.
  • In cases of expansion of a project, including increase in volume of production, if environmental clearance has not been received, then the government agency can force the project proponent to revert to the level of construction/manufacturing before the expansion.

Fines:

  • In cases where operations have commenced without the required environmental clearance, 1% of the total project costand in addition 25 % of the total turnover during the period of violation will be levied.
  • In violation cases, where operations have not commenced, 1% of the total project cost incurred up to the dateof filing of the application (for instance a fine of Rs 1 lakh for a project worth Rs 1 crore) will be levied.
  • Concerns Raised by Environmentalists:
  • The SOP normalises post facto regularisation of violationsin which violations are first committed and then the project proponent files for clearance by which they “are let off by paying a penalty”.
  • It is the institutionalising of violations on the basis of the polluter pays norm.