Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
- The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to deal with environmental violations.
About Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
- It includes stiff penalties — including shutting down projects and demolition of projects that have failed to acquire environmental clearance.
- They result of orders from the National Green Tribunal, which earlier this year directed the ministry to put in place penalties and an SOP for green violations.
- It gives powers to government agencies such as the CPCB, state pollution control boards and state environment impact assessment authorities to identify such violations and take penal action against them.
- In 2017, the ministry had initiated a six-month amnesty scheme on penalising green violations, which was later extended.
- The SOPs refer to two categories of green violations —
- ‘Violations’ involving cases where construction work, including expansion of an existing project, has begun without the project proponent having acquired environmental clearance; and
- ‘Non-Compliance’ in which prior environmental clearance has been accorded to the project, but it is in violation of norms prescribed in the approval.
- According to the SOPs,
- projects that are not permissible for environmental clearance are to be demolished.
- projects which are permissible according to environmental law but which have not acquired the requisite clearance are to be shut down.
- 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 now force the project proponent to revert to the level of construction/manufacturing before the expansion.
- permissibility of the project shall be examined from the perspective of whether such activity/project was at all eligible for grant of prior EC.
- In Violation cases, 1 per cent of the total project cost incurred up to the date of filing of the application will be levied.
- In cases where operations have commenced without the required environmental clearance, 1 per cent of the total project cost and in addition 0.25 per cent of the total turnover during the period of violation will be levied.
Significance of this move:
- It is an acknowledgement by the ministry that despite EIA rules being in place for seven years, most projects seem to continue to fall outside the prescribed environmental norms and are therefore violators.
- It gives “immense power” to the ministry in determining the violator and the offence.
- This will institutionalize the violations on the basis of the polluter pays norm.
- This is not an amnesty scheme but actually makes the process of first violating and then paying a penalty and getting away with the violation a routine affair, which is in direct contradiction to the premise of the EIA.
- This gives scope for violators, especially the big players, to negotiate with the ministry.
- These are very substantive changes and needed to have been included in the new EIA draft as an amendment with public discourse, which the ministry has circumvented by issuing it as an Office Memorandum.