The internal structure of sezs and their relations with the world outside are equally controversial. Environment and labour standards followed inside sezs are suspect all around the world. Chinese sezs are particularly notorious for their lax labour and environmental standards. The sez Act has in its own way tried to loosen regulations on both fronts. Also, the new environmental impact assessment (eia) notification, which was passed this September, specifies significant departures from the earlier specifications on industrial estates.
For one, it exempts industrial estates with an area less than 500 ha from obtaining clearances under this notification, whereas the 1994 notification exempted industrial estates of below 50 ha from eias.Units in estates with homogenous industries such as chlor alkali, leather, petro-processing and synthetic organic chemicals or those estates with pre-defined sets of activities (which effectively could mean all industries), will not be required to take prior environmental clearance (though the estate will if it is over 500 ha), as long as the "terms and conditions for the industrial estate/complex are complied with' and if they have "clearly identified management with legal responsibility'. "Given that all industrial processes are anyway required to have a clearly identified management with legal responsibility, the objective of the specifically stated qualification is still unclear,' says Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group, Bangalore. In effect, these conditions could be applied to a large variety of industrial estates, sezs and biotech parks, thereby enabling large-scale exemption from environmental clearances and public hearings. Moreover, estates spread over more than 500 ha have the luxury of deciding whether an eia is required. The only regulation is self-regulation.
The environmental performance of existing sezs does not provide succour either. A report of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (2005) shows that some units had been importing metallic wastes of various categories without being registered under the Hazardous Waste Rules on the plea that they are located in an sez. The report states: "Despite the recommendations of the Menon Committee, the implementation of environment laws has still taken a backseat on the assumption that sezs are