The Ministry of Environment and Forests is mulling a proposal to undertake Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) on its own for projects coming up in eco-sensitive areas, as well as those having multiple units, instead of merely going by the assessment carried out by the project promoters.

“We will take a decision on this by the year end,” Mr Jairam Ramesh, the Minister for Environment and Forests, told newspersons here on Monday.

He said the biggest “drawback” in the current system of EIAs was that these were carried out by the proponents of the projects and hence were more a self-assessment.

Mr Ramesh said the Ministry will also seek to encourage State governments to undertake cumulative environment assessments for projects that were coming up in areas which already had a large concentration of industrial units.

“We have done cumulative assessments for some hydel power units. After such cumulative assessments, if the situation called for some retro-fitting of the existing industrial units, the promoters will have to meet the new stipulations,” he said.

High erosion zones

The Ministry will be banning new projects, especially in the ports sector, that are proposed in the high-erosion zones along the Indian coastline.

It has undertaken a satellite imagery assessment of India's coastline, which will now be divided into three zones — high, medium and low erosion zones.

“The satellite imagery assessment is completed for the coasts of Gujarat, Orissa and Puducherry. We will have the imagery of the entire coastline, covering all coastal States, by August this year,” Mr Ramesh said.

Based on the imagery, the high-erosion zones will be determined and no new port projects will be cleared at such locations. “The existing ports in these zones will be asked to take additional precautions,” he said

On the long pending Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh, the Minister said the State Government had agreed to spend Rs 630 crore to set up a protective embankment to avoid submergence in the neighbouring States of Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

“I have also asked the (State) Government to set up an independent commission to monitor implementation of rehabilitation package. Discussions (on the project) are on,” he pointed out.