Video Conferencing Techniques in Expert Appraisal Committee Meetings for Environmental ClearanceUse of Video Conferencing Techniques in Expert Appraisal Committee Meetings for Environmental Clearance by MoEFCC


17042020

Rajesh Deoliya

Key words: Mining,Environment,Expert Appraisal Committee, Video Conferencing, Environmental Clearance,MoEFCC
 
The human spirit is such that nothing can stop it from going back. The great pandemic situation prevailing in India and worldwide has made us slow in our progress but only to bounce back. Since work is worship, alternate and new means have been searched to continue our journey in serving the society and its need in new era.  The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, New Delhi (MoEFCC)  has also updated its environmental clearance process by adopting Video Conferencing techniques. Though such techniques are in prectice for quite some time for government and private work of various kind. But in the time of pandemic situation this is good step wherein the Expert Appraisal Committees of MoEFCC are conducting their meetings through Video Conferencing. The Industrial – I committee did it on 09 April, 2020 and Non Coal Mining Committee is also conducting its meeting on 20-21 April, 2020 through Video Conferencing. It is a welcome step, the project proponents know how important is the Terms of Reference and Environmental Clearance to them. These are considered one of the big certificate for the furtherance of the project. In the light of COVID-19 pandemic the MoEFCC vide Office Memorandum 22-25/2020-IA,III dated 13.04.2020 issued instructed States SEIAA and SEAC to use such tools to expedite the disposal of projects related to Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) falling in B2 Category.

If it is successful, satisfactory and comfortable to both the committee members and project proponent then the ministry may make it as permanent feature.

The entire Video Conferencing process is moderated by MoEFCC through a nodal officer who is generally an IT professional or well versed with the system.  

Every Project Proponent is allotted a fixed time slot for Video Conferencing say for example 10 Am to 11 AM. It may be half an hour, one hour or any other time period as decided by MoEFCC depending upon the type of project (generally ToR projects, modification projects  get  less time than EC projects). 
The Project Proponent should be ready before 10 minutes  of the allotted slot.Due to time restriction in Video Conferencing Project Proponent should submit the desired documents and copy of presentation through email to all the Committee Members and Officials of the Ministry about one week before or before the time given by the MoEFCC.

The presentation is done through an App known as Vidyo which is to be downloaded and installed on Project Proponent's Laptop/ Desktop. During presentation the screen of desktop or laptop can be shared for display at big screen at MoEFCC conference room also. This is similar to what we do through AnyDesk type sharing apps. Only 2-3 persons are allowed to participate in the Video Conferencing.

Since it is Video Conferencing hence, it is desirable to have good quality uninterrupted 4G or Broadband connection, otherwise a poor connection or loss of connection will lead to the deferment of project. The Desktop or Lap top should have good quality camera and microphone. The rooms should have proper lighting also.


Advantage:
a.
 Time Saving
The Project Proponent and Consultant saves lot of precious time involved in traveling to Delhi
b.
Better Participation
In Physical Conference, it is not possible to carry all the project related documents. Due to this some of the questions of committee members remain unanswered leading to deferment of project
c.
Fast design making
Though the number of participants are restricted but the supporting staff and representatives of top management can also assist the front executive from behind in taking decisions where cost is involved like modification in machinery, increased compensation to land losers, carrying out some more studies.
d.
Awareness of Management on Environmental issues
Since the project proponent will be participating from its office, this helps in participation of senior management, they can observe the entire process of grant of environmental clearance and in turn they can pay much attention in compliance part and increasing the quality of the Environmental Impact Assessment Reports and Environment Management Plan.
e.
Quality of Environmental Impact Assessment Reports
It is expected that senior management executives can participate in the conference process because the project proponent will be participating from work space, any comment on the quality or lacuna in documentation of Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan by members of Expert Appraisal Committee will lead to awkward situation. Hence it is time for giving more attention in preparation of EIA/EMP reports.
F
Reduce travel Budget
Since Video Conferencing involves work from their office without traveling to Delhi, this will help in reduction of traveling budget to all the stake holders.
G
Rapid Availability of Data
Any data sought by the Experts Appraisal Committee can be made available by back end team and immediately supplied to committee through designated E-mail or shown through Hyperlink.

Disadvantage:

a.
Difficulty in accommodating last minute changes
Since in the Video Conferencing method presentation is submitted about a week before any change in the presentation which is common in the physical conferencing (where even few minutes before the presentations were changed).

b.
Co-ordination
In Physical Conference, the project proponent and consultants have better understanding, co- ordination  and help each other in satisfying the queries of expert committee members. This helps is two ways i) clearance of project and ii) in case of deferment, reduction in further studies or queries.
c.
Bad Network
Good Quality network is must, any loss of network will result in deferment of project for next hearing.

 Though advantage and disadvantage are part of each activity but in general the method of environmental clearance through Video Conferencing is good idea, no wonder, if it continues even after lifting of lock down.

Rajesh Deoliya

Request: Thanks for coming to this page, readers are requested to comment over the article and add some more information which might have missed here to serve the beneficiaries better.

Comments

Nice information and such a good idea vedio conference for timely action.
Unknown said…
Very nice and appropriate method, it will reduce unnecessary traveling, traveling expenses, time saving, fast disposal,
Unknown said…
Innovative idea.
Unknown said…
Good Informative
Unknown said…
Nice idea, it will save time, money, travelling fatigue, collection of datas and taking for presentation, financial assurance can be given timely, fast movement of projectand its compliance, more alert in online presentation both project technical expert as well as consultant, last minutes changes can'be incorporated. I feel a good suggestion can be worked out all agencies. thanks, Anoop kumar Saxena DGM, mining corp. Bhopal.
Unknown said…
Indigineous software to be used fir this VC to avoid interference of other country.
Madan Prakash said…
Very good method in present situation as it enables people from different places to communicate each other in a more convenient way. However, video conferencing lack personal interaction. Thus, there may be possibility to miss out on vital body language when the ACOs/ Experts may face with a pixelated image or stuttering video. Dropped connections, camera malfunctions, choppy video, audio latency may be frustrating or useless. Remote connections are sometimes known to be hampered by environmental changes.
Setting up video conferencing in an office can be a bit expensive for small sized ACOs. Simple features can fit in the budget, but for advanced features systems, substantial amount of expenditure is required. Such expense, in turn will enhance the cost of preparation/ presentation of EIA which the ACOs will charge from the Proponents.
No matter how good the equipment is, it will never be as good as physically being in the same room as someone. Video conferencing is more informal than a face-to-face meeting.
During normal days, physical and face-to-face meeting is preferable to rectify any sort of confusion on either side.
Thanks & Regards,
Madan Prakash
P K Dwivedi said…
This is a good idea and has more advantages then disadvantages. This started due to compulsion but continuing this practice will be very good move.
Dr. Kumkum Mishra, Environmentalist said…
Decision of Project appraisal through Video Conferencing as adopted by MoEFCC is a good step to be welcomed in current situation I.e. During Corona Pandemic when lockdown is prevailing in entire country and social distancing is need of the hour.
Moreover, such initiatives must be practiced in coming future also offering cost cutting, reduced traveling, more involvement of various sectoral experts from consultant as well as PP side and rapid disposal of cases.

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