IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


20th March, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: https://corpbiz.io/learning/star-rating-system-introduced-for-seiaa/

Context: The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that its proposal to establish a star-rating system for State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) based on their efficiency in providing environmental clearances has not yet been implemented. This delay follows a challenge filed against the system by a Tamil Nadu-based organisation working for fishermen's rights.


  • The proposal to rate the effectiveness of State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) in awarding environmental clearances through a star-rating system has been delayed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • This plan was presented in January 2022, intended to review and rank SEIAAs based on how quickly they granted environmental clearances to industrial and infrastructural projects. However, the Ministry informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that the system had not yet been operationalized.
  • The idea for the star-rating system was challenged at the NGT by a Tamil Nadu-based organisation that advocates for fishermen's rights. The petitioners argued that the system would result in the environmental impact assessment procedure being less scrutinised and that it was arbitrary.
  • In response, the Ministry defended its action, asserting that the order was simply administrative and did not intend to alter the processes or timetables established in the 2006 EIA notification. The Ministry emphasised that the star-rating standards were intended to assess efficiency and timeliness in awarding clearances without altering existing practices.
  • The NGT has scheduled a final hearing on the case for May 13, allowing both parties to present their views.

National Green Tribunal (NGT)

●The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established in 2010, under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.

●It was created to facilitate the effective and expeditious disposal of cases related to environmental protection, conservation of forests, and other natural resources.

●The NGT is empowered to enforce legal rights relating to the environment, provide relief and compensation for damages to persons and property, and address matters connected with or incidental to environmental conservation.

●It operates independently and is not bound by the procedural rules laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Instead, it is guided by principles of natural justice.

●The Tribunal is mandated to make efforts to dispose of applications or appeals within six months of filing.

State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs)

  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has developed a new ranking system to boost the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of India's State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs).
  • SEIAAs play an essential role in examining and approving environmental clearances for various development projects to reduce negative environmental impacts.
  • SEIAAs are evaluated on a scale of 0 to 7, with points awarded based on the time taken to grant clearances. For example, SEIAAs receive two points for clearances granted in less than 80 days, one point for clearances between 80 and 105 days, and 0.5 points for clearances between 105 and 120 days. No points are given for clearances taking more than 120 days.
  • The ranking method is based on seven factors designed to analyse how successfully SEIAAs handle environmental clearance applications, ensuring fast decisions while maintaining environmental safeguards.

The seven ranking criteria are:

Average time for granting environmental clearances (ECs)

●Encourages SEIAAs to adhere to the mandated 105-day timeline for processing EC applications, as per the EIA Notification 2006.

●SEIAAs complying with the timeline are granted 1 mark; those deciding within 105-120 days receive 0.5 marks.

●No negative markings for not meeting the criteria.

Timeliness of processing ToR (Terms of Reference) applications

●Aimed at reducing undue delays in deciding on Terms of Reference (ToR) proposals.

●Notifications by the Ministry require referral of new projects to Expert Appraisal Committees (EACs) or State Expert Appraisal Committees (SEACs) within 30 days.

●No negative markings for not meeting the criteria.

Timeliness of processing EC applications

●Based on the provision of the EIA Notification 2006, which sets a 105-day timeframe for granting EC.

●Intended to encourage SEIAAs to meet this timeline.

●No negative markings for not meeting the criteria.

Number of times additional information is requested

●Aims to streamline the information sought by committees to maintain consistency and avoid irrelevant details.

●No negative markings for not meeting the criteria.

Average time to accept ToR/EC applications

●Encourages efficient scrutiny of proposals for accepting or raising Environmentally Sensitive Issues (EDS).

●No negative markings for not meeting the criteria.

Complaints addressed by SEIAA

●Increases accountability of SEIAAs to the public by addressing complaints in a timely manner.

●No negative markings for not meeting the criteria.

Percentage of projects with SEIAA/SEAC site visits

●Encourages SEIAAs and SEACs to conduct site visits when necessary for a thorough evaluation of projects' environmental impact.

●No negative marking for taking more site visits than prescribed.


  • The implementation of the star-rating system is a step in the right direction towards increasing the effectiveness of environmental clearance procedures, however, caution must be exercised to reduce concerns and ensure that environmental protection is given priority. Achieving the system's potential benefits while lowering any associated challenges will require cooperation amongst stakeholders, transparency in decision-making and continuous assessment.


Q. The environmental impacts of growth are usually unequally distributed, with certain regions bearing the burden of pollution and resource depletion while others benefit economically. How to achieve environmental justice - the fair treatment and participation of all communities - in development decisions?