Environmental Impact Assessment is an important management tool, originally introduced in India in 1978-79 for river valley projects. The scope of EI A has been extended to cover other developmental sectors as well. EIA is now mandatory under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investment beyond certain thresholds.
EIA covers projects which require approval of the Public Investment Board, Planning Commission and Central Electricity Authority, projects referred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests by other ministries.
This also projects which are located in environmentally degraded areas, central public sector undertakings with a projects cost of more than Rs. 50 crore. For implementation of EIA Expert committees have been constituted for mining, industrial, thermal power, river valley multipurpose and hydel, infrastructural development and nuclear projects.
An application for environmental clearance along with the documents specified in the EIA notification is scruitnised by the technical staff of the ministry of environment and then by the expert committee. The Environmental impact of the project is evaluated, sites are visited and independent assessment is made if necessary. In case of specific projects such as mining, port act.
A two stage clearance procedure is adopted i.e. site clearance and then environmental clearance, so that ecologically fragile and environmentally sensitive areas are avoided while locating projects. In order to monitor and implement recommended safeguards, six regional centers have been set up by the ministry at Bangalore, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Shillong. Under EIA a decision is taken within 90 days but in case of forest land, the decision is given within six weeks.