Thinley Namgay

To streamline and improve service delivery, the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) reformed the process of availing environmental clearance (EC).

The reforms are simplifying the initial environmental examination (IEE) forms, repealing section 12 and 13 of regulation for environmental clearance of projects (RECOP) 2016, and colour coding projects.

The reforms were presented yesterday at a press conference.

IEE forms  for getting an environmental clearance was changed  from eight forms with 10-page each in 2012 to nine forms with four page each in 2017.

Repealing section 12 and 13 of the RECOP was to reduce bureaucratic procedures. Before the reform, an applicant needed dzongkhag or thromde’s administrative approval along with clearances from relevant agencies besides requiring official clearances from the concerned agencies for a proposed project whose location is within 50 meters of a public park and hospital.

NEC’s Secretary, Sonam P Wangdi said that the nature of the administrative approvals is similar to the development consent that follows the issuance of EC.  Other sectorial clearances are taken care of by various concerned agencies.”

The colour coding of projects classifies projects according to their impact on the environment.

Projects under the green category are those with minimal environment impact and which does not have to follow the environment assessment process. “Such projects increased from 44 in 2002 to 99 in 2016.  It was further increased to 126 in 2020,” said Sonam P Wangdi.

Blue category projects are those with minimal environment impact and the assessment will be carried out at IEE level.  Projects with major impact on the environment and which requires environment impact assessment (EIA) study are coded red.

NECS officials said that a total of 387 EC applications were received between 2017 and December 2019.  Out of this, 351 applicants got the EC, but 32 applications are still pending owing to incomplete information.

Between 2018 and 2019, NECS received 95 applications for renewal of EC. All were renewed.

NEC’s Chief Environment Officer, Choki Wangmo, said that in line with the annual performance agreement of the NECS, the time frame for assessment and issuance of decision on EC is 180 average working days for application under EIA level and 45 average working days for applications under IEE level and renewal applications.

“The turn around time is counted from the date the application is accepted and acknowledged by the NECS until the decision on the EC is taken,” she said.

In 2018, decisions on the issuance of EC for applications under IEE level was 28 average working days which ranges from a minimum of 15 days to a maximum of 130 days depending on project proposals. The duration of applications under EIA level was 68 average working days with a minimum of 58 to a maximum of 224 days.

In 2019, the duration was 21 average working days (minimum of 11 days to a maximum of 80) for IEE level and 51 average working days for applications under EIA level (minimum of 15 to a maximum of 96 working  days ).

The duration to take decisions on the renewal of EC in 2018 averaged 22 working days, which ranges from a minimum of 15 to maximum of 116 days.  In 2019, the average increased to 28 working days to renew the EC with a minimum of 13 working days and a maximum 68 days.

IEE is implemented for projects which have minimum environment impacts and EIA for the projects which would have more impact on the environment.