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Environment Impact Assessment Draft 2020: A Threat To The Environment?

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In recent times, the walk between climate change adaptation and development has been cautionary and an act of fine balance. Environmental Impact Assessment, abbreviated as EIA, has been ‘that’ fine balance to predict and mitigate the impacts of developmental processes on natural, social and economic order. The studied impacts, beneficial or detrimental, must be factored in while designing a project, and enable the plan, policy or project to move forward as proposed.

History Of Environment Impact Assessment In India

In 1979, Munn gave a broad definition of EIA, which is, “to identify and predict the impact on the environment and on man’s health and well-being of legislative proposals, policies, program, projects and operational procedures, and to interpret and communicate information about the impacts”. This makes the EIA a multidisciplinary and systematic approach, which gives an impetus to examine the consequences of developmental actions having a direct or an indirect bearing on the socio-economics of environment.

It was in the US where the EIA was mandated as a regulatory procedure in the early 1970s through National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 1969. Subsequently, similar legal mandates were enacted in developed countries including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. A few developing countries including Columbia and Philippines also stepped up to add the mandate in their legal frameworks. In India, the EIA was first conducted by Department of Science and Technology in 1977-78 to study the impact of river valley projects.

gas leak in vizag
In a recent gas leak accident that occurred in Vizag on 7th May 2020, hundreds of lives were risked and about 11 succumbed to death on exposure to styrene gas. LG Polymers India, the company responsible for the gas leak, was found to be operating without an environmental clearance.

Later, a varied range of projects such as thermal power, mining, infrastructure were brought into examination under the EIA. Finally, it became a mandatory process for all developmental activities under the Environmental Protection Act of 1986. The notification issued by the Government of Indian in 1994 enlisted 30 projects that must seek environmental clearances before implementation.

In 2006, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) brought out a legislation that necessitated large scale developmental activities and certain small scale (electroplating, foundry, etc.) to undergo environmental clearance. Unlike the notification of 1994, it became the responsibility of State governments and not the Central government to clear projects depending on their scale and capacity.

A fairly-conducted EIA considerably reduces conflicts by promoting community participation and informing decision makers. It also helps in laying the base for environmentally-sound projects. An EIA aims to fulfill the following three core principles:

Integrity  The EIA process should be fair, objective, unbiased and balanced;

Utility The EIA should provide balanced and credible information for decision-making, and

Sustainability The EIA should result in environmental safeguards.

Findings of the EIA are then incorporated at the stage of project design, and help facilitating finding alternatives and making necessary changes. This practice helps project management committees in assessing the negative impacts and planning remedial measures.

As a first step, the project proponent is required to obtain a site approval from the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). A clearance from the Central government is also obtained if the site falls in a restricted forest land, coastal zone or any other ecologically sensitive area. Then, the EIA study is conducted, the report of which is submitted to the SPCB.

An advertisement in the newspaper calls upon for public hearing conducted by the SPCB in order to issue a No Objection Certificate. The conditions put forth to carry out the project range from general to specific, depending from case to case. Structurally, the EIA may differ from country to country, but there is a basic structure of the process that is usually followed everywhere.

The eight steps of the EIA process are: screening, scoping, impact analysis, mitigation, reporting, review of EIA, decision-making and post monitoring.

Draft Of The EIA Notification 2020: Yay Or Nay?

The MOEFCC has recently proposed a revised set of notification in its draft EIA notification 2020. The draft proposes to update the EIA of 2006. The draft is still in the public domain for scrutiny by various stakeholders. The notification has already raised many debates as it is being seen as dilution of environmental principles.

green forest being cut for coal mining
A fairly-conducted EIA considerably reduces conflicts by promoting community participation and informing decision makers. It also helps in laying the base for environmentally-sound projects.

One of the most criticised issues is the proposed provision for post facto approvals. Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has disapproved granting of post facto approvals in its judgment made a couple of years ago. The Court went on to say that the grant of an ex post facto environmental clearance would be detrimental to the environment and could lead to its irreparable degradation.

In a recent gas leak accident that occurred in Vizag on 7th May 2020, hundreds of lives were risked and about 11 succumbed to death on exposure to styrene gas. LG Polymers India, the company responsible for the gas leak, was found to be operating without an environmental clearance.

According to the EIA draft notification 2020 a company, like LG Polymers India, that has violated environmental laws can later seek approval and regularise its state of affairs as usual. Not only this, many on-going projects that can be rendered as a violation of environmental laws now stand a chance to get a clearance.

The process of EIA that makes it participatory and democratic is that of public hearing, the part that would face a set back if the time for public consultation is cut short from 30 days to 20 by the draft notification. It also proposes to complete the public hearing process in 40 days, compared to 45 days under the earlier notification.

We already have a history of projects that have led to a large number of displacements because of wrongful acquisition of law. Such provisions in the draft notification, if it becomes a policy, would certainly threaten the public participatory process and the three core principles of EIA.

For projects concerning defence, security and other strategic considerations as determined by the government, will now be termed as ‘strategic projects’ and would be exempted from public consultation, the details of which may not be kept in the public domain. Such genuine projects of national importance are reasonable if the provision is not misused by the construction lobby to evade scrutiny.

Environment and Economy (development) has always been at the centre of partisan debate across the world ever since the landmark UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. India has also experienced this debate over the years. It is a question of striking a balance between two extreme but influential views. The EIA process, if diluted, will further snuff the life of Environmental Protection Laws in the country.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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