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Students and Scientists urge Central Government to revoke the EIA 2020 Draft

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

Krishna Mani Rao R

21st September 2020

For the past few months, many have voiced concern for the EIA 2020 (source: Jagran Josh)

Academicians, students, and multiple researchers from various prestigious institutions all across the country had come together and penned an open letter to the Union Environment Ministry.

The open letter was written to the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change on 2nd September 2020 as a response to the Environmental Impact Assessment draft (2020). The letter criticized the EIA Draft 2020 as there were multiple points that seemed very concerning. They stated, “The existing EIA 2006 Notification itself has been deemed insufficient in meeting its stated aims. The undermining of environmental safeguards by non-compliant and unmonitored industries and practices has often led to environmental disasters including overwhelming loss of biodiversity, human lives, industrialization, and livelihood, as happened recently with the Vizag gas leak and the Baghjan oil-well blowouts. Rather than strengthening the EIA process, the Draft Notification tends to promote industrialisation at the cost of the environment”, as reported by The Economist.

The writers also mentioned their concern about the already high mortality rate of India which continues to increase due to the pollution and climatic changes that were rapidly taking place. They requested the EIA Draft to be strengthened by taking up a wide consultation of multiple officials of various categories mostly after the ongoing pandemic ends. They did not receive a reply to the letter and then attempted to approach the Prime Minister’s office by writing. 

According to them, the draft legitimises ex post facto environmental clearances it also encourages industries with no prior clearance to commence operations and eventually get regularised by paying a penalty amount even though they were a cause of irreversible damage to the environment, which is in contrary to the precautionary approach of EIA regulations.

The EIA draft also mandates the baseline data collection period to prepare an EIA report for all projects as only one season (except for river valley projects), wherein additional data from the monsoon season is required only if prescribed by the Appraisal Committee. Many scientists and activists believe that this is severely inadequate for evaluating the seasonal impact of the project on the ecology and the environment, as reported by The Wire.

The writers of the letter also reiterated that the draft also includes solar thermal power plants and extraction of ‘ordinary earth’ for linear projects and maintenance dredging in the list of projects that do not require prior environmental clearances. They argue that there is no proper understanding of the possible impacts of these projects when carried out on a large scale. Such exemptions may negatively affect the existing terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. It could also hamper wildlife movement and fragment habitats.

Sources: The Wire, The Economic Times.

Edited by Mridula Kumar

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