Earlier last month, the Ministry of Environment proposed a new set of recommendations around environmental clearances in India in the form of the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020.
The primary and most obvious concern around these new recommendations is that they heavily favor industries and not the environment. It proposes to ease processes for business, does away with public hearings for many crucial development projects, and has eased rules for expansion of projects among other things. At a time when we’re grappling with the impact of climate change, a draft that prioritizes unsustainable development sets a dangerous precedent.
In the environment clearance process, public consultation is an important component. The concerns of local affected persons and communities, who have a stake in the environmental impact of the project, must be taken into account while the project is being designed. This draft notification though has merely expanded the list of projects that don’t need a public consultation before getting environment clearances.
Environmentalists believe the draft is completely contrary to the principles of environmental protection. By giving discretionary powers to authorities and legitimizing the illegalities committed by industries, The draft will unleash a great deal of harm on our environment.
Send this email to the Ministry of Environment NOW and stop them from diluting the EIA notification 2006 further.
In partnership with Citizen consumer and civic action group (CAG), we have created a template email that you can undersign and send to the Ministry of Environment before August 11.
Mr. Rameshwar Prasad Gupta, Secretary,
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
On March 23, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) uploaded the draft Environmental Impact Assessment Notification (EIA) 2020, with a view to inviting public comments within the next 60 days. This was done in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, and thus is an ill-timed move to elicit public comments -- especially for such an important notification that has far-reaching impacts on India’s environment and forest protection.
The draft notification itself is a watered-down version of the EIA 2006 notification and has failed to:
1. Incorporate the realities of the present and the future by not including industries such as battery manufacturing, manufacture of solar panels, and other components that are the backbone of the booming renewable energy sector.
2. Resolve the crisis of improper e-waste management, which has pernicious effects on natural ecosystems and public health by choosing not to regulate e-waste processing in India.
3. Include Geoengineering, which is deliberate and large-scale manipulation of Earth’s natural processes, and is a big contributor to the climate crisis.
4. Reduce the list of projects that are either exempt from environmental clearance or do not need public consultation before getting environmental clearance;
a) Linear infrastructure projects like highway expansions have been exempted from getting prior environmental clearance even though there is clear evidence of the threat of fragmentation of wildlife habitats and the emergence of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19
b) Projects that promote continued fossil fuel dependence like coal bed methane extraction, onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling, shale gas exploration, and extraction are placed in the exempt category, even though they exert a huge toll on the environment and are not green.
The draft notification, by placing the district magistrate (DM) as the chairman of the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) and District Environmental Assessment Committee (DEAC), creates a serious dilemma. How can the environment be guarded if the same person who grants approval to industries as DM is supposed to review it as chairman of DEIAA/DEAC? The move to do away with individual environmental clearances for projects within industrial complexes will lead to poor compliance and adherence to environmental standards by the respective industries within the industrial complex. Further, there is no scope of fixing individual accountability under such circumstances meaning environmental violations are more likely than ever to slip under the radar leading to widespread environmental degradation.
The 2020 draft notification only looks to serve the interests of the business community as it shortens the timelines for getting environmental clearances, increases the validity of mining and riverbed related projects, does away with clearance requirements for expansion projects and has expanded the exclusion list under which projects are exempted from getting environmental clearances.
With so many dilutions and contradictions towards the stated goal of environmental protection, it is best that the MoEFCC withdraw the notification. It is not possible for individuals and community groups to get together to frame a response to the draft under the lockdown conditions that are in place in the country. It is important that the relevant stakeholders are in the right state of mind and have the time and energy to provide appropriate responses. In the present difficult times, when most of them are otherwise occupied, it is not right for the government to put out an important document in the public domain for comments. Thus, we demand that the MoEFCC withdraw the draft EIA 2020 notification for now and put it up for public comments after normalcy returns.