Frequently Asked Questions


(a)   Industry Classification

Q: How are TPPs classified among industries?

A: The Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) has classified TPPs as one of the 17 Red Category industries. Red Category denotes heavily polluting industry.

For obtaining EC:

  • Category A projects are -

> 500 MW Coal/Lignite/Naphtha & Gas Based Fuel

> 50 MW Petcoke, Diesel and all Other Fuels, including Refinery Residual Oil Waste (excluding Biomass)

> 20 MW Biomass Based or Non-Hazardous MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) as Fuel

  • Category B projects are -

< 500 MW Coal/Lignite/Naphtha & Gas Based Fuel

<50 MW or ³ 3 MW Petcoke, Diesel and all Other Fuels, including Refinery Residual Oil Waste (excluding Biomass)

< 20 MW or ³ 15MW Biomass Based or Non-Hazardous MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) as Fuel

(b)  Siting of Plants

Q: Why is there a proliferation of TPPs along the coast?

A: Situating a plant along the coast provides two important benefits to the Project Proponent:

  1. Easy transport of imported coal through ports and captive jetties.
  2. Easy availability of seawater for on-site seawater desalination technology for both once-through cooling and for boiler-feed water generation. This reduces fresh water requirement for running the thermal power plant.

Q: Is there any regulation on where TPPs can be situated?

A: Yes. There are three sets of criteria to be observed for situating TPPs. These are:

  1. Criteria listed in the EIA Notification, 2006.
  2. Industry Siting Guideline of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  3. Siting Rules of the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB).

According to the EIA Notification 2006, TPPs with a capacity of less than 500 MW- which are awarded EC by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) - will have to seek clearance from the MoEF if they are to be situated within 10 kms of

  • Protected Areas notified under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Critically Polluted Areas as notified by the Central Pollution Control Board from time to time.
  • Notified Eco-sensitive Areas
  • Inter-State Boundaries and International Boundaries.

As of October 2013, the CPCB has marked the following areas as critically polluted:

  • Ankleshwar (Gujarat)
  • Chandrapur (Maharashtra)
  • Pali (Rajasthan)
  • Vatva (Gujarat)
  • Vellore (Tamil Nadu)
  • Najafgarh Drain Basin (Delhi)
  • Jodhpur (Rajasthan).

TPPs cannot be situated in these areas.

Besides these, State Governments also have a list of places where development activities are restricted.

The Tamil Nadu SPCB has passed an order banning heavily polluting industries (which includes TPPs) from being situated within 1 km from the embankment of certain rivers (mentioned in the link provided below) and within 5 kms from the embankment of river Cauvery & its tributaries, Pennaiyar, Palar, Vaigai & Tamrabarani


The Andhra Pradesh SPCB has stated that the distance between the boundary of the site for any industry and the boundary of the National Highway should be 100 m, State Highway-50 m and Village Roads 25 m. These guidelines, however, are not applicable to plots located in industrial estates.[1]

In Karnataka, no new industry can be set up within1.5 km from the embankment of

  • Cauvery, Kabini, Arkavathy, Shimsha, Pennar, Hemavathy, LakshmanThirtha, Gundal river, Lokapavani, Palar, ThungaBhadra, Krishna, Bheema, Varada, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Vedavathi, Karanja, Hagari
  • All west flowing streams/rivers
  • All those streams/rivers carrying water either seasonally or throughout the year,
  • All Major Dams
  • Drinking surface water sources
  • All major irrigation canals
  • If any water body is a source of drinking water, then a distance, to where the discharge of pollutants will not affect the water, will be stipulated.
  • TPPs are not permitted within municipal/ city limits and residential areas.[2]

For further details on siting guidelines, please check with the respective State Pollution Control Boards.

Q: What is the CEPI (Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index)? How does it impact the location of TPPs?

CEPI is a number to characterize the environmental quality at a given location. CEPI scores are calculated from time-to-time by the CPCB to identify critically polluted areas and industrial clusters, by monitoring their air, land and water.

CEPI Score is an important tool to identify those clusters where industrial development activities have been restricted due to their pollution levels. In 2010, the MoEF imposed a moratorium on the consideration of projects for EC, if they were located in 43 critically polluted areas. It has been reduced to 7 clusters as of September 2013. TPPs cannot be located in those places where the moratorium is imposed.

(c)  Transportation of Coal

Q: How is coal usually transported to power plants from the port?

By road, rail or through closed conveyor belts.  If transportation of coal entails a long distance, the Project Proponent is expected to assess the possibility of rail transportation to the site. Wagon loading at source should preferably be through silo/conveyor belt.

2.Environmental Clearance & Process for a New Plant

(b) Before Environmental Clearance

Q: What activities, with respect to project land, can the Project Proponent engage in, before EC?

A: Activities permitted before an EC according to a circular by the MoEF[1]:

  • Fencing of the site to prevent it from being encroached
  • Construction of temporary sheds for guards

Q: How long does it usually take for a plant to get EC?

A: It depends on the size of the plant. Usually 1to1½ years is the time for a plant to obtain EC after filing of Application. The following are the time-bound activities according to the EIA Notification:

  • Issuance of ToR: To be issued within 60 days of Application submission by Project Proponent.
  • Conducting of Public Hearing: The Public Hearing Report to be submitted to the MoEF/ SEIAA by the SPCB within 45 days of receiving request for hearing from the Project Proponent.
  • Issuance of EC: To be issued within 105 days of the Project Proponent submitting the Final EIA

(c) Coal Mix & Coal Linkage

Q: What should the Project Proponent if do if the particular coal mix, for which EC has been obtained, is to be changed?

A: Project Proponent has to apply for a fresh EC for the new fuel mix. (This is stipulated under EIA Notification[2 (iii)]

Q: Can Project Proponent establish coal linkage before obtaining EC?

A: Yes! In fact, it is a prerequisite for granting EC. The status of the Forest & Environmental Clearance of the coal source- be it the linked coal mine or coal block - should also be specified in the EIA. If imported coal is to be used, the MoU between the coal supplier and Project Proponent is required to be included in the EIA.[2]

The coal linkage can be through a specific mine, a basket of mines or through a dedicated coal block accorded by Standing Linkage Committee of the Ministry of Coal or the Fuel Supply Agreement.

Q: If the quality/type of coal (i.e. coal parameters), different to the one based on which the EC was issued, is required, what should the Project Proponent do?

A: If the coal parameters have changed, the Project Proponent should bring it to the attention of the MoEF, which will assess and incorporate new and additional conditions, if required.

(d) Authorities in the EIA Process

Q: Which Public Authorities/Government Offices are involved in the EC Process?

A: MoEF and SEIAA are the Regulatory Authorities that issue the EC. Category A projects are awarded clearance by the MoEF, while the SEIAA issues clearance for Category B projects.

SPCB is entrusted the task of conducting the Public Consultation by the MoEF and submitting the Public Consultation Report

Q: Is the SEIAA a State or Central Government Body?

A: It is a Central Government Body! However, its Member Secretary and Chairman are nominated by the respective State Government. The Member Secretary has to be a serving officer of the concerned State Government.

(e) Documents to be available in Regional Language

Q: What are the documents in the EIA process that, additionally to English, are to be available in the Regional (local) Language?

A: They are

  1. The Executive Summary of Draft EIA, ahead of the public hearing.
  2. A Statement of Issuesraised by the public and responses given by the Project Proponent at the Public Hearing. This is compiled by the State Pollution Control Board.

(f) Site Visit

Q: Who will visit the project site for any survey or study?

A: Accredited EIA Consultants will conduct surveys of the proposed project site and its neighbouring areas. According to an NGT order[3], EIA Consultants should gather some primary material about the socio-economic data in the area and carry out a preliminary survey to understand the basic needs of the people in the project area to form the Environment Management Plan.

The ToR will stipulate the distance around the project site for survey for the EIA.

Q: When can EAC/SEAC members visit make a site visit?

A: The sub-committee of the EAC/ SEAC can make a site visit at any stage of the EC Process.  It is commonly done before the ToR is issued and/or after the Draft EIA is submitted.

(g) Terms of Reference (ToR)

Q: Who draws up the ToR and the extent of the EIA?


The ToR, issued by EAC/SEAC spells out the parameters of the EIA (e.g. the duration of the study (number of seasons), extent of study (number of kilometres around the proposed plant site) etc.)

(h) Final EIA

Q: What is the allowable extent of difference between the Draft EIA and Final EIA?

A: The Final EIA cannot be drastically different from the Draft. Only those changes necessitated as part of the Public Consultation are permissible.

The EIA that is made ready and available before the Public Hearing is called the Draft EIA.  It should cover all baseline study information, mitigation measures and any specialized study stipulated in the ToR.

The EIA revised and submitted after the Public Consultation Process, to include the concerns of the public and additional measures to address these concerns, is the Final EIA. No change in baseline data or inclusion of specialized study information, as directed in ToR, can be incorporated after the Public Consultation Process. 

Q: Is the current environmental state of a project site studied?

A: Yes! The state of the environment of the proposed project site and its neighbourhood is studied as part of the baseline study undertaken by the accredited EIA consultant. The study area to be considered for the EIA study is spelt out in the ToR issued by the MoEF/SEIAA.  The EIA will contain the assessment of different components of the environment, called the 12 Functional Areas, including the ambient air, noise, groundwater, biology, land, socio-economic aspects.

Q: How long does it usually take to conduct the EIA Study?

A: That depends on the extent of study specified in the ToR. The EIA study will take at least 3 months (1 season) or up to 1 year.

Q: Is the Final EIA available for public scrutiny?

A: An MoEF circular issued in August 2013 requires the MoEF/SEIAA to upload the Final EIA before the EC is issued. If there is any objectionable part in the Final EIA, the public can report it to the MoEF, or petition the NGT.

(i) EIA Consultant

Q: What is the need and what are the responsibilities of the EIA Consultant?

In order to assess the environmental impacts of a proposed plant, the Project Proponent has to engage the services of a consultant accredited by National Accreditation Board of Education and Training/Quality Council of India (NABET/QCI).

The EIA for a project not done by an accredited consultant will not be considered for clearance. A Consultant, entrusted with the task of conducting an EIA for a TPP, should be accredited for that specific sector.

The list of accredited consultants is found at:

Q: What is the composition and role of the EIA Consultant Team for a project?

A: The EIA Consultant Team for a project is headed by an EIA Coordinator knowledgeable about the EIA process, rules and acts, sector knowledge, likely environmental impacts related to the sector, and the leadership quality required to plan, select and guide an EIA Team.

Apart from the EIA Coordinator, the Team will contain Functional Area Experts (FAE) for 12 specific areas.

The areas include:

  1. Land Use
  2. Air Pollution Monitoring, Prevention & Control
  3. Meteorology, Air Quality Modeling and Prediction
  4. Water Pollution Monitoring, Prevention and Control
  5. Ecology and Biodiversity
  6. Noise and Vibration
  7. Socio-Economic Aspects
  8. Hydrology, Ground Water and Water Conservation
  9. Geology
  10. Soil Conservation
  11. Risks & Hazards Management
  12. Solid & Hazardous Waste Management (including municipal solid wastes)

The minimum qualifications for an Expert are given in:

A team member, with the necessary qualification criteria, can be both the EIA Coordinator and a Functional Area Expert. An expert can opt to be an FAE for a maximum of 4 domains, or as an EIA Coordinator for a maximum of 5 sectors.

(j) After issue of EC

Q: Once the EC has been issued, can a Project Proponent start the construction of the plant?

A: No! The Project Proponent has to apply for Consent to Establish with the respective SPCB. Upon obtaining it, the construction of the plant can commence.

Before starting operations in the plant, the Consent to Operate has to be obtained from the SPCB.

(k) Chimney Height

Q: Are there any norms for Chimney Heights?

A: The required stack height for TPPs has been notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Plant Capacity       :         Chimney Height

>500 MW               :         275 meters

210 MW- 500 MW   :         220 meters

Less than 210 MW :         H= 14 Q 0.3 (where Q is emission rate of SO2 in kg/hr, and H is stack height in meters).

(l) Permitted Pollution Levels

Q: What are the permitted pollution levels for TPPs ?

A: The standards for discharge of environmental pollutants have been specified in notifications issued over time under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. A compilation of the different parameters can be found in the annexures of the Technical EIA Guidance Manual for Thermal Power Plants. The manual can be found here:

(m) Land Acquisition

Q: At what stage can the Project Proponent acquire land for the project?

A: Land acquisition can begin even before the Project Proponent submits an application for EC. However, it is not mandatory for the Project Proponent to buy all the land required for the project site at this stage. This is an area that an accredited EIA Consultant Organization should probe for likely Socio-Economic issues and Resettlement & Rehabilitation.

Q: How is the rate for the required project land to be decided?

Under the recent legislation, Right To Fair Compensation And Transparency In Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation And Resettlement Act, 2013, there is a formula for compensation calculation and the District Collector only has to ensure that the procedure is followed.

3. Existing Plants

Q: What is the difference between a greenfield EIA and brownfield EIA?

If the proposed project is a new one in a location, then it is called a Greenfield project. Such a project demands baseline study of the project area and the expected change after its operation with impact assessment and required mitigation measures.

A brownfield project is an expansion in an already operating site. For such projects, the baseline study should cover effectiveness of existing mitigation measures, including the compliance status of all EC conditions, and expected change with comprehensive impact assessment and required mitigation measures.

Q: How are established plants monitored?

A: The SPCB should conduct periodic inspections of all industries, including TPPs, to ascertain if they are functioning according to permitted emission levels and adhering to other conditions stipulated in the EC.

The Project Proponent has to submit the following Compliance Reports:

  • Quarterly Monitoring Report to the SPCB.
  • Half Yearly Compliance Status Report to the Regional Office of MoEF.
  • An Annual Report has to be submitted to Central Electricity Authority in a specified format (under the Fly Ash Utilization Rule), with a copy sent to SPCB.
  • Yearly Environmental Statement to SPCB.
  • Additional reports asked for by SPCB (based on public complaints)

Q: What should the Compliance Reports contain? How can one access them?

A: EC for every TPP contains specific conditions that have to be adhered to and corroborated in the Compliance Reports submitted to the MoEF/ SEIAA.

These reports are to be available in public domain and the latest Compliance Report should be on the MoEF/ SEIAA website.

The MoEF/ SEIAA must make available copy of any Compliance Report on request from the public.

Q: What are the other documents that the public can access?

a) Quarterly Compliance Report submitted to SPCB

c) Annual Environmental Statement submitted to SPCB

d) Annual Fly ash Utilization Report submitted to Central Electricity Authority with copies to SPCB &MoEF.


4. Other Clearances

(a) Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Clearance

Q: What is CRZ Clearance and its relevance to the EIA Process?

Projects situated in close proximity to the coast require CRZ Clearance. The CRZ Notification of 2011 specifies where a CRZ Clearance is required. If the site of a proposed TPP lies within the CRZ, then the EC for the project will be subject to the recommendations of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority for CRZ Clearance. The minutes of the meeting of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority- uploaded on its website- will reveal if a project has been recommended CRZ clearance.

(b) Forest Clearance

Q: Who issues Forest Clearance?

A: Forest Clearance is issued by the Central Government under Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, when a project uses Forest Land.

(c)  Further Clearances

Q: Apart from EC of the MoEF, what other clearances are required?

A: Some of the other clearances required include:

  1. NoC from the Panchayat for setting up a TPP within its limits.
  2. Consent to Establish and Consent to Operate from the concerned SPCB
  3. Approval for drawing water from the state water authority if the source is from a perennial river
  4. Clearance for the chimney height to be obtained from the Airport Authority of India.
  5. Permission from the Indian Railways for railway siding/Right of Way for railway track


5. Redress

Q: Where should complaints about any aspect of the EC process of a plant, be made?

A: Any violation at any stage of the EIA process can be reported to the MoEF.  If the EC has been awarded for a project with violations, it should be challenged at the National Green Tribunal.

Q:  Where should complaints about an existing TPP be made if conditions regarding employment, CSR and others, are not followed?

A: If the conditions stipulated in the EC are not followed, it should immediately be brought to the notice of the MoEF and the SPCB.

Q: What is the National Green Tribunal (NGT)?

A: The NGT is a quasi-judicial body established to adjudicate in cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources. New Delhi is the principal place of sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal (Central Zone), Pune (Western Zone), Kolkata (Eastern Zone) and Chennai (Southern Zone) are the other four places of sitting of the Tribunal.

Q: Is there a time limit for filing petitions with the NGT?

A: Yes! Petitions to the NGT are time-barred, and allowed to be filed within 30 days of the cause of action, extendable to 90 days with sufficient justification for delay. This means that a person appealing against the EC issued to any project must, except under exceptional circumstances, do so within 30 days of the issue of the EC.