Govt relaxing laws to ease supply of construction materials

    Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has directed officials to lift a provision that requires District Development Committees (DDCs) to make Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) mandatory for extraction of sand, soil and boulders from quarries.

    In a meeting with ministers and officials of concerned ministries regarding supply of construction materials on Thursday, Oli directed Ministry of Environment to amend a schedule of Environment Rules 2054, allowing contractors to extract construction materials on the basis of Initial Environment Examination (IEE) only.

    This amendment will allow DDCs to award contracts for extracting unlimited natural resources without conducting EIA. Existing provision makes EIA mandatory for extraction of 251 square meters or more soil and boulders from a single quarry in a day. As per the existing provision, IEE is sufficient only for extraction of up to 250 square meters of resources from a single quarry in a day.

    Multiple sources confirmed to Republica that the relaxation aims to eliminate the time-taking EIA process that takes up to two years. However, Minister for Environment Biswendra Paswan and other officials of the ministry were not available for comment.

    If the amendment is made, concerned ministries themselves can approve IEE. They no longer need to wait for endorsement of detailed reports on environmental and social impacts by the Ministry of Environment.

    Though officials say that the relaxation is being made to address acute shortage of construction materials for reconstruction works and other development projects, it is expected to draw criticisms from environmentalist.

    “The decision aims to expedite development works and spend allocated budget,” an official of Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development.

    Fed up by sluggish developmental works and delay in getting approval for EIA, the government has also decided to the minimum time taken for EIA approval to 40 days from 126 days. It is likely to be published in Nepal Gazette shortly.

    A study report prepared by Ministry of Industry has identified 92 quarries nationwide. However, nothing has been done to prepare the quarries for systematic extraction.

    Source : Republica