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Urbanization and industrialization has taken over the world in the name of development , which lead to a rapid decline in our environmental treasure. In order to curtail this environmental depletion, the Government has introduced an assessment that controls the utilization, acquisition, and usage of natural resources by employing the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). This assessment is mandatory for every development project to occur in the country where the project must satisfy the norms in order to obtain a license to initiate the project with minimal affect on the environment. From the first draft of 1994 and consequently modified 2006 draft, it was hard to get a clearance for the projects where the project will be called for public opinion, which delayed the start of a project. This draft was more rigid and oriented towards the conservation of the environment and maintaining a balance between the developmental projects and the environment. (Mazoomdaar, 2020).

The current draft released by the government has started facing criticism all over the country due to its diverse miss objectification and not maintaining the actual reason why this assessment was established. In 2014 the UPA-II rule created conflicts in the country, where the developers and industrialists complained regarding the delay in clearance affecting the development projects. Considering this fact that, a long list of clearance norms made developers and companies started to shout out against the EIA rules. But the current draft appears to be in favor with the developers and industrialists. The crucial point making people angry is the non-involvement of the public in the project impact assessments.

The new EIA draft highlighted several changes, in which the major new modifications like “Post fact clearance”, “Suo moto declaration of violation”, “Reduction in response period”, “Environment clearance validity extension”, and “strategic tags”. The first rule modification, Post fact clearance- this is to exclude people and activists to complain about the violation of EIA rules by the project and it also states that the public has no authority to raise slogans or any means of against the project. In which only the government itself assess the violation and deal with the company, this rule is like whatever happens to the environment and the people should not concern about it (Anathakrishnan, 2020).

The second rule Suo moto declaration of violation- suggests the industrialists and big project holders surrender themselves upon violation of EIA rules and no public complaint will be considered in this regard. However, the government has declared that there will not be any justification given to the public on this act. This can be evaluated by the authority of EIA or any other Govt. bodies or if this violation found during the application process of the project. Thirdly the Reduction in response period- the public response on big project impact assessment has been reduced to 20 days from 30 days, as in this duration the people and activists need to assess, file complain if any issues found, and finalize the issues. This reduction in public response period made it ridiculous that no assessment could be done in 20 days, indirectly excluding people from the public assessment.

The fourth rule, Environment clearance validity extension- the validity of a project has been extended for example the Mining project validity extended to 50 years where the previous period was 30 years and river valley projects got 10 years of extension. This discussion reflects that there will be no assessment in the next 50 years if the company got clearance once, and whatever the exploitation happens in these 50 years will not be considered.  In addition to this extension, the company need not submit the compliance report every six months rather it can be submitted once a year. There might be a possibility of irreversible reaction occurring during the project which affect the environment negatively. For this reason, the earlier EIA drafts required companies to submit the report every six months to avoid future disasters and renew the license.

Finally, the fifth rule strategic tags- solely the Govt. will tag the companies with Strategic tags which includes projects such as Modernization, Irrigation, Defence and security, national highways, and area development projects and more. This means that no information will be provided to the public domain and it will be confidential and these projects will be exempted (category B) that is no entry for public participation.

The main objective of EIA rule is to assess the impact of industrial and development projects on the environment in terms of social, economic, physical and cultural impact and to take measures to avoid these negative impacts. On the contrary the EIA draft is against the objective and favorable to the corporate and private bodies.  Unfortunately in the past years, the clearance rate of EIA is 87 % where out of 2,592 proposals 2,256 proposals got approved. The nationwide protests were carried out against the EIA draft declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change. Recently the High court of Delhi has extended the EIA public consultation period till August 11 (Jolly, 2020). In addition to the protest, more than 75 youth groups from Tamil Nadu including 1,951 teens signed a petition to withdraw the EIA draft (Lobo, 2020). These protests are reflecting the anger and disagreement with the EIA and suggesting Govt. to act on this situation and give preference to public involvement in the assessment.

Pema Choden Bhutia is a Research Scholar at Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. Email: pema@mids.ac.in

References

J, Mazoomdaar, (2020, July 28), Explained: Reading the draft Environment Impact Assessment norms, and finding the red flags, retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/draft-environment-impact-assessment-norms-explained-6482324/

G, Anathakrishnan (2020, August 2) The Hindu Explains | What are the key changes in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2020? retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-hindu-explains-what-are-the-key-changes-in-the-environment-impact-assessment-notification-2020/article32249807.ece

S, Jolly, (2020, July 31)Draft EIA Notification 2020 Is Out of Sync With State Practices, International Law retrieved from  https://thewire.in/environment/draft-environment-impact-assessment-notification-international-law

S, Lobo, (2020, August 3) Over 75 Tamil Nadu youth groups write to Centre against Environmental Impact Assessment 2020 draft, retrieved from  https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/over-75-tamil-nadu-youth-groups-write-to-centre-against-environmental-impact-assessment-2020-draft-1707416-2020-08-03


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One Comment

  1. Avatar rashokkumar says:

    Scrap the EIA draft and inculcate in the people Public Interest Science. See how the root cause of COVID19 pandemic and of the Beirut blaze as well as the inferno at the COVID19 designated Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad is World Dam Dynamics at
    Ramaswami Ashok Kumar.2020. PERFECT DESIGNS:WORLD DAM DYNAMICS IMPLICATED IN COVID19 PANDEMIC AND SHREY HOSPITAL FIRE at
    https://livingnormally.blogspot.com/2020/08/world-dam-dynamics-implicated-in-covid.html
    R. Ashok Kumar, Negentropist, Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, 299, Tardeo Road, Nana Chowk, Mumbai-400007.