According to the Environmental Performance Index released in 2018. India ranks in the 177th position out of a total of 180 countries, dropping by 36 places in just a matter of 2 years. We all feel responsible for the environment around us and contribute to keeping it safe, voicing our opinions whenever required. But, we have failed to notice the injustice happening to the environment and wildlife in our own backyards. This is one such event, one that can lead to far worse consequences than those we might have witnessed thus far. The EIA 2020.
- What is EIA?
The Environmental Impact Assessment or the EIA is a set of instructions, rules, and regulations that are used to evaluate the environmental impacts of various plans, policies, programs, or actual projects prior to the decision to move forward with the proposed action.
The process helps to measure the project’s necessity and its environmental impact, gain public and expert opinion to approve it, come up with alternatives (if required), or completely reject the project. Empowered by the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the process is what guards our environment from being wiped out by development projects.
- What is the EIA draft 2020?
The Environmental Impact Assessment Draft 2020 is a notification released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to replace the previous notification released in 2006. The public has been given time till June 30th, 2020 to voice their opinions and make recommendations, after which it will be fully functional.
- Is the EIA 2020 draft Impartial and Just?
The EIAs goal since it’s conception in 1994 was to set up proper regulations that were centralized, unbiased, and just, allowing for development only after all the environmental costs were taken into consideration. However the latest draft is partial towards rampant industrialization and projects, with no regard for the environment.
It dilutes many crucial points and legalizes many currently illegal offenses that industries commit. It blatantly disregards the Environment Protection Act that it is empowered by. Allowing the draft to replace the previous 2006 notification will only create dire consequences not only to the environment and its wildlife, but also to humans.
- What are some key differences between the EIA 2006 Notification and the EIA 2020 Draft?
The examples listed below are just some of the many changes that will come into effect if the current EIA 2020 Draft is approved. All these changes are unacceptable and harmful as they strip the protections placed on the environment by the previous 2006 notification.
- Taking away the power of the public
Public consultation is a regulatory process by which the public’s input on matters affecting them is sought. Its main goals are in improving the efficiency, transparency and public involvement in large-scale projects or laws and policies.
The new draft will reduce the number of days the public has to raise their concern about a particular project.
Certain red category polluting industries will be allowed to come up right at the borders of protected and eco-sensitive areas without any public consultation.
Highways, expressways or ring roads 70 m wide could be approved in those protected areas without public consultation or even a prior environmental clearance.
- Introducing “post facto” approval
This means industries could potentially set up shop without the required environmental clearance and then pay a fine for it after the damage has already been done.
- Mining dilutions
The government is not subtle in its encouragement of the commercialization of mining, giving away public resources for the highest bid in the “Aatmanirbhar” coal auctions.
The draft EIA, if adopted, will allow any mining operation to extend their environmental clearance by 20 years. Any mining operation could also increase its capacity by 50% without the necessity of another environmental clearance.
Apart from the extended time period, certain coal mining projects are categorized as “B2” , meaning that without a public consultation the project could come up right at the boundaries of eco-sensitive, protected or critically polluted areas.
Given the current state of the natural world, it is time for us to move past non-renewable and polluting energy sources. The question we must ask ourselves is which of our resources, (not just coal) will be left for our future if we don’t change our ways now?
- The effect of relaxed checks on industries
Frothing lakes and rivers
Poor worker conditions
These are the things a competent EIA should tackle and remedy.Unfortunately, the new draft lacks in character and therefore has lost this essence.
- “Strategic” projects
The draft EIA introduces the term “Strategic”. When classified as a strategic project, the public will not be able to access any information about the project.
- Can we voice our opinions and ask for changes?
Luckily, yes! There are ways in which you can contribute. The draft is kept open for public opinion and criticism till the 30th of June. This means that anybody can voice their opinion to the concerned authorities and help make a change.
- How can I voice my opinion?
Explanation of the process in a few sentences and attaching the required link.