State Environmental Impact Assessment Agencies (SEIAA)

A proposal by the Union Environment Ministry to “rank” and “incentivise” States on how quickly they could give environmental clearances to proposed infrastructure projects has drawn fire from environmentalists on the grounds that it contravenes basic principles of environmental regulation.

A note to States by the Union Environment Ministry on January 17 spells out seven criteria to rate State Environmental Impact Assessment Agencies (SEIAA) on “transparency, efficiency and accountability”.

On a scale of seven, a SEIAA, for instance, gets two marks for granting a clearance in less than 80 days, one mark for within 105 days and no marks for more.

If less than 10% of the projects for scrutiny prompted a site visit by committee members, to examine ground conditions, a SEIAA would get one mark.

More than 20%, on the other hand, would be a demerit or zero marks. SEIAA with a score of seven or more would be rated ‘five star.’

Ministry officials said that the ranking criteria was not intended to accelerate the speed with which clearances were accorded but to encourage the SEIAA to take quicker decisions on approving or rejecting a project, and adhere to timelines already specified by the provisions of the Act.

The project appraisal process is an online process where aspirant companies must upload documents on a portal called Parivesh.