In a major fillip to Swachh Bharat Mission, the environment ministry has given a blanket exemption to all solid waste management projects from taking prior environmental clearances.
The exemption from prior environmental clearances for projects, barring landfill sites, comes as a major relief for Modi government’s cleanliness initiative as it would cut down the time taken by waste treatment projects to get off the ground. According to urban development ministry officials, the time taken, which was anywhere between six months and a year, would now be cut down by at least six months.
The biggest problem the ministry of housing and urban affairs was facing in the implementation of solid waste treatment and processing projects was different rules for different facilities.
The ministry had then written to environment ministry to revisit the issue. An expert group was formed in June in environment ministry and it recommended that apart from a proposal of a fresh landfill site, no other projects would be required to get environmental clearances.
Environment Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha has intimated the new move to the ministry of housing and urban affairs. In his letter, reviewed by ET, Jha has said, “It has been seen that locating a landfill site or municipal solid waste disposal site is a contentious issue and there is a tendency to locate them far from the habitation but near forest, rivers, ponds, wetlands and low lying areas etc which are ecologically sensitive sites and require proper environmental management.It may not be appropriate to exempt this activity of municipal solid waste disposal site or landfill site from the requirement of prior environmental clearance.”
The environment ministry has spelt out waste to energy plants up to a capacity of 15MW would not require any environmental clearance. “Municipal solid waste management involves various steps like door-to-door collection, segregation, composting, refuse derived fuel making, waste to energy generation through waste to energy plants and disposal in scientific landfills.
The above activities, except landfill site, if proposed as standalone activites… do not require prior environmental clearance,” the ministry has clarified.