EIA in India
Prior to January 1994, EIA in India was carried out under administrative guidelines, which required the project proponents of major irrigation projects, river valley projects, power projects, ports and harbors, etc., to secure a clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF). The procedure required the authority to submit environmental information to the MEF by filling out questionnaires or checklists. The ministry’s environmental appraisal committees carried out the environmental appraisal.
On 27 January 1994, the MEF notified mandatory EIA’s under rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules of 1986 for 29 designated projects. The notification made it obligatory to prepare and submit an EIA, an Environment Management Plan (EMP), and a project report to an Impact Assessment Agency and was required to consult a multi-disciplinary committee of experts. Under the January 1994 notification any member of the public was to have access to a summary of the Project Report and the detailed EMPs. Public hearings were mandatory. This represented India’s first attempt at a comprehensive EIA scheme. The environmental action formally started with the participation of late Smt. Indira Gandhi in the UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. A National Committee on Environmental Planning & Coordination (NCEPC) was established to be the apex body in the Department of Science and Technology. The term `Environment figured for the first time in the Fourth Five Year Plan (1969-74) which recorded that `harmonious development was possible only on the basis of a comprehensive appraisal of environmental issues. The Tiwari Committee (Committee on Review of Legislative Measures and Administrative Measures), in its report in 1980, recommended creation of a Department of Environment as a nodal agency to ensure environmental protection, to carry out environmental impact studies of proposed development projects, and to have administrative responsibility for pollution monitoring and control. The department came into being in 1980 within the Ministry of Science and Technology under the charge of the then Prime Minister. In 1989 the subjects of wildlife and forestry were added to the list and a new Ministry of Environment and Forests was created with the Prime Minister holding its charge. Since its inception the Department (under the Ministry) has issued various guidelines on EIA for various projects.