Star Rating System for SEIAA

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is the Star Rating System for SEIAA?
  • Concerns Regarding the Star Rating System of the SEIAA
  • Why has there been a Delay in Operationalising Star Rating System for SEIAA?

Why in News?

The MoEFCC has informed the NGT that its plan to implement a star-rating system for states based on their promptness in awarding environmental clearances to industrial or infrastructure projects has not yet been operationalised.

The Ministry told the NGT’s Chennai bench that it is still in the process of upgrading and operationalising the website that would facilitate this ranking of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA).

What is the Star Rating System for SEIAA?

  • The star-rating system was introduced in 2022 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC), and is based on -
    • Pollution control measures,
    • Environmental management practices, and
    • Compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • The rating, for which industries must apply every year, range from one to five stars, with five stars indicating the highest environmental compliance and performance level.
  • The ratings are publicly displayed on the SEIAA website.
    • SEIAA is a regulatory body established by the MoEFCC under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006.
    • The SEIAAs grant clearances on the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committees which go through every project proposal that has the potential to have a substantial environmental impact.
  • As per the star-rating system, the SEIAA would get points on a scale of 0 to 7.
    • A SEIAA would get two points for granting a clearance in less than 80 days, one point for clearing a project between 80 and 105 days and 0.5 points if the clearance was granted between 105 and 120 days.
    • Zero points would be given to a SEIAA if it takes more than 120 days for granting environmental clearance.
  • The proposed star-rating system will beutilised to “rank” and “incentivise” States on how “quickly” and “efficiently” they can accord environmental clearances.
  • The ranking system aims to encourage efficiency in decision-making without compromising regulatory safeguards.
  • Industries with higher ratings will be eligible for various incentives and benefits and thus promotes ease of doing business.

Concerns Regarding the Star Rating System of the SEIAA

  • Limited scope: It focuses on the environmental performance of industries and does not consider other important factors, such as socio-economic impacts, which can also affect sustainability.
  • Self-reporting and verification: The system relies on self-reporting by industries, which can be prone to manipulation and inaccurate reporting.
    • Verifying the reported data can also be challenging, particularly for smaller industries.
  • Lack of stringency: The criteria for awarding stars may need to be more stringent to ensure the highest level of environmental performance.
    • This may be difficult to enforce due to lack of capacity and resources.
  • Limited participation: This is mainly because industries do not see any immediate benefits of participation or have limited resources.
  • Incentives may not be enough: While the incentives provided for higher star ratings can encourage industries to improve their environmental performance, more is needed to ensure sustained improvement in the long run.
  • Lack of public awareness: There may be a need for more public awareness about the system, which can limit its effectiveness in promoting sustainable development and environmental protection.

Why has there been a Delay in Operationalising Star Rating System for SEIAA?

  • The MoEFCC had introduced the star-rating system in 2022 but it was challenged in the NGT by a Tamil Nadu-based organisation working for the rights of fishermen.
  • The petitioners argued that it was arbitrary and would result in a dilution of scrutiny during the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.
  • The petitioners also argued that the Ministry’s order was contrary to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 which mandates detailed scrutiny of all the impact of all projects.
  • However, the Ministry defended its decision and said that the rating criteria does not seek to change any process or timelines as provided in the EIA notification 2006.

Q1) What is the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2006?

The EIA Notification of 2006 is the governing legal instrument for granting green clearance to create or expand an industry based on the project's possible environmental impact.

Q2) What is the National Green Tribunal (NGT)?

The NGT, established in 2010, as per the National Green Tribunal Act is a specialised judicial body equipped with expertise solely for the purpose of adjudicating environmental cases in the country.

Source: Star-rating for state environment bodies not operational yet, Ministry tells NGT