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EIA 2020 Draft has been widely criticized for its problematic changes in rules

Pritam Kashyap
Pritam Kashyap

The draft of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 was released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Changein March 2020 and is now widely criticized because the draft seems to favor the industries and largely neglecting the balance between sustainable development & environment protection.

To this, the Delhi high court has extended the time period of public consultation on the draft of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, released by MoEFCC, until August 11 which was only till June 30 and also told to publish this draft in other languages.

Major proposed changes, that were made public in March 2020, states that a wide range of projects won’t need have to undergo through with the public consultation stage of the EIA process as laid down by EIA Notification, 2006.

The EIA Notification 2020, will now supersede 2006 notification, has come under severe criticism from environmentalists who have demanded its early withdrawal. The EIA draft notification’s regression &dilution of environmental criteria conflict with the established principles of international law. It allows for post-facto clearances which would legitimise projects that have not received proper clearances and approvals.

The new notification exempts an inventory of projects from prior requirements, notably renewable energy projects, solar thermal power projects, solar parks, and coal and non-coal mineral prospecting. The rationale seems to be the notion that solar power projects reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and are better for the climate. However, such simple assumptions overlook the manifold environmental & social concerns, similar to the requirement of huge acreage, diversion of agricultural land & changes to drainage patterns brought on by the development & operation of the solar parks.

Major changes in EIA 2020:

  • It allows for post-facto approvals making the act of creating assessments and seeking clearances redundant.

  • It reduces public participation within the process by reducing the notice period for hearings and does away with them in many categories of projects.

  • The impact assessment itself is completed away with, in many categories of projects.

  • Projects are allowed to secure land for long durations without being accountable for any construction on those lands, increasing the risk of these projects eventually becoming "land-grabs".

  • It allows for Centre to appoint State authorities to oversee this process, reducing local powers, thereby further curtailing the rights of local stakeholders to precise their rights.

  • Despite repeated citizen requests and a directive from the Karnataka High Court to form the draft “widely public” by publishing it all together in all regional languages and giving the citizens enough time to reply, the authorities seem to be dragging their feet.

The Vizag gas leak (Styrene gas), is an industrial accident that occurred at the LG Polymers chemical plant in the R. R. Venkatapuram village of the Gopalapatnam; Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, on May 7, 2020, and the Assam gas &oil leak, or the Tinsukia gas leak/ Baghjan gas leak, is a petroleum gas and oil leak that occurred in Oil India Limited's Baghjan Oilfield operated by John Energy Pvt. Ltd. in Tinsukia district, Assam, on May 27, 2020, is two recent examples which show why EIA is important for the nation.

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