EIA Draft 2020: What It Is and What You Need to Know About It
Aditya John Mayne
14th September 2020
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) published the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 intending to replace the existing EIA Notification, 2006 under the Environment Protection Act 1986. The government intends to bring changes to the regulations placed through amendments. An EIA evaluates the environmental impact of infrastructure development or a proposed project such as a mine, dam, waste treatment, plant, or an industrial unit. It takes into account cultural, socio-economic, and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.
The new draft introduced in 2020 has been widely criticised. Apart from removing various existing regulations, several activities have been disallowed from the purview of public consultation. The proposed amendments grant post-facto environmental clearance to industries that operate and pollute without consent from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The notification envisages two types of approval—prior environment clearance with the approval of expert committees, and environmental permission or provision without expert committees' approval.
According to The Hindu, several large-scale projects were recategorised as B2 (projects that do not require EIA), and thus exempted from it. There is apprehension surrounding the fact that the exemption from EIA and public consultation for listed B2 category activity projects will seriously affect the environment since these will be carried out without oversight.
According to the new draft, violations can only be reported by a project proponent or a government official, not by a citizen. An EIA presented for a public hearing gives the public a chance to understand the project, its process, and its impact on the environment.
Moreover, the notice period for the public hearing has been cut from 30 days to 20 days. This will prove difficult to study the draft EIA report, more so when it is not widely available or provided in the regional language. The EIA notification itself has been translated into three languages, instead of at least 22, official correspondence accessed by a Right to Information (RTI) request shows.
Activists and environmentalists alike argue that the government's new draft makes it considerably easier for industries to escape environmental accountability.
Conservationists say that the new draft significantly diminishes the EIA's scope and fundamentally diminishes its meaning by re-categorising industries that do not require an environmental clearance, limiting public engagement, and normalising environmental violations.
(Sources- The Hindu, The Week, The Print)
Edited by Pratheek S