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Environmentalists raise concerns about draft EIA 2020 notification, demand its scraping

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Environmentalists raise concerns about draft EIA 2020 notification, demand its scraping

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The Draft Environmental Assessment Impact (EIA) Notification, 2020 issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is attracting heavy criticism from environmentalists and several sections of civil society after it was put forward for public consideration and suggestion or objections by the ministry.

Environmentalists raise concerns about draft EIA 2020 notification, demand its scraping
The Draft Environmental Assessment Impact (EIA) Notification, 2020 issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is attracting heavy criticism from environmentalists and several sections of civil society after it was put forward for public consideration and suggestion or objections by the ministry.
Despite the coronavirus lockdown in place, #SaveEIA banners have come up at several places across Thane, Maharashtra showcasing the outrage against the draft notification. Many youth unions working towards environment protection across the country have written letters to MoEFCC raising concerns over the draft EIA 2020 notification and demanding its scrapping.
Alongside, #SaveEIA campaign is attracting a lot of attention of citizens on social media platforms who are expressing their grief against the new draft EIA notifications issued by the environment ministry.
The MoEFCC’s March 12 draft notification contains a set of new rules that will replace the 2006 notification and purports to make the existing norms “more transparent and expedient” in issuing environment clearances for development projects.
Yash Marwah, environmental activist and founder of Let India Breathe, criticised the proposed draft saying, “The government still has the time to withdraw, rethink and finalise a stringent law to serve the natural resources of the country, especially post COVID-19 when the world is rethinking conservation. The lack of regional insights due to lockdown should be enough reason to withdraw this regressive notification instead of making changes in a hush hush manner that can have a long-term effect on how we manage climate crisis."
Here is a list few changes proposed by MoEFCC proposed in the draft:
a.
The new draft allows for post-facto approval for projects, meaning that the clearances for projects can be awarded even if they have started construction without securing environmental clearances.
b. Public consultation process under the draft notification is reduced from 30 days to 20 days giving less time to the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.
c. The new draft now asks a project promoter to file a compliance report once a year, explaining the activities carried out by them according to the allotted permissions. The 2006 EIA notification asks the promoters to file a compliance report every six months.
d. With the new set of notifications, government will have the authority to categories the projects as “strategic”. For a “strategic project”, the government shall disclose no information to public.
Environmental activist and founder of Muse Foundation, Nishant Bangera, said that the new draft notification of EIA does away with public consultation and is undemocratic. “It's rather deplorable of how the draft notification was released during lockdown when the whole country is struggling to survive the pandemic. To take away public's rights to opine on developmental projects is undemocratic and a clear attack on tribals and indigenous people,” said Bangera.
“Post-facto clearance to the infrastructural projects would be detrimental to nature. We urge the Ministry to scrap EIA and if at all need be, strengthen it to save our biodiversity,” he added.
Advocate Zaman Ali, who practices at the Bombay High Court, expressed concerns over the new draft notification’s provision to term some projects as “strategic,” saying that such usage of vague words like projects of strategic consideration can bring any and every project of any threshold under its ambit and this will defeat the entire purpose knowing what the likely impact of this project on environment is going to be.
“It will create a large trust distrust with the government,” said Ali. “Such a move defeats the very purpose of having an EIA in the first place.”
On May 8, MoEFCC issued a notification extending the deadline until June 30 for inviting the objections or suggestions of public on new draft EIA notifications. According to a PTI report, a petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court by environmental conservationist Vikrant Tongad claiming that May 8 notification, which allows 60 days extension to give suggestions, is not clear on when the 60 days commence.
The Delhi High Court stated that there was "ambiguity" in the Centre's decision extending time till June 30 for giving objections and suggestions to its 2020 EIA draft notification, terming it as “unfair” to the public.
Commenting on the petition in the Delhi HC, advocate Ali said: “It's a very important plea as many stakeholders such as farmers, forest dwellers and other marginalised communities are not as tech savvy and don't have equal access to information and thoughtful discussion the way urban residents have. The time needs to be extended till restrictions last or at least till late September.”
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