On 12th March this year, the Union Ministry of Environment had proposed the new draft bringing changes in rules and regulations of the Environmental Impact Assessment of 2006, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). In the draft, the central government said to have imposed “conditions and threshold on the undertaking of some project or expansion or modernization of such existing projects”, but the draft is clearly imposing restrictions on the people and making way for the industries to carry out projects without adequate procedures.
The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 notification has enticed a lot of criticisms and concerns from students, politicians, and activists because of its biased and regressive clauses. Mining of minor minerals and major minerals like coal, hydraulic and nuclear power processing, thermal power, real estate, industrial project, infrastructure development, and productions are few examples of projects falling under the EIA notification.
The Environment Impact Assessment 2020 is criticized as pro-industries because the draft allows post-facto clearance meaning the authorities can approve a project without any procedures. There are almost 40 different projects that are excluded from the environmental clearance and public consultation thus does not need to be approved based on the protection and environment safety guidelines. The exemption is applicable to:
The projects that are listed under the B2 category require hardly the two-stage process to decide whether to grant or reject the proposal.
According to the draft, only government officials, representatives, and project proponents are allowed to report violations. This clause has taken away the right of people to report violations, which in the past has helped considerably to stop industries and authorities from going too far in compliance with exploitation.
The public agencies under the Regulation Authority are not allowed to conduct a public hearing “in a manner which will enable the view of the concerned persons to be freely expressed” which is a hindrance in the way of civilians or activists to work against exploitative activities.
The EIA 2006 considered opinions of people through public consultation before the final approval of a project. Not only did the new draft remove the right of public consultation on certain activities but also shorten the 30 days notice period for hearing and processing responses to 20 days.
This anti-environmental law is regressive and against the constitutional right to information. In a country where corruption and violations of law are prevalent, the draft seems to be changed and renewed to serve the vested interests of elites by denying the reality of climate change.
The EIA 2020 draft, when practiced, would lead to a substantial increase in deforestation, illicit mining, and construction activities in environmentally vulnerable areas and left with no freedom for people or activists to report violations. In fact, these are the times in which governments should intensify the environmental guidelines and regulations for a better tomorrow.
About the author: NIVYA JAYAN is a passionate writer and graduate in Economics. A reader for life, interested in politics and diplomacy.