Why draft EIA 2020 needs a revaluation
Environmental Impact Assessment or EIA is the process or study which predicts the effects of a proposed industrial project on the environment. It prevents the proposed project from being approved without proper oversight or taking adverse consequences into account.
The new draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 proposed by the Union government is a regressive departure from the 2006 version that it seeks to replace. It is an attempt to weaken environmental regulation and silence affected communities.
The draft seems to favour the industries and seems to be largely neglecting the balance between sustainable development and environment protection. The Union government, on the contrary, argues that the new draft will reinforce transparency and expedite the process.
The EIA new draft 2020 allows post-facto clearance. This means that even if a project has come up without environment safeguards or without getting environment clearances, it could carry out operation under the provision of the new draft EIA 2020. This is disastrous because we already have several projects that are running without EIA clearances.
Public participation has been crucial in the EIA process and has significantly helped communities to not only get information about the projects being proposed in their areas, but also to speak about their concerns regarding the projects.
Risk to Protected Areas
The new EIA Notification allows several red and orange toxic industries to operate as close as 0-5 Km from a Protected Area, which may risk the protection of the diversity of the country’s forests and our source of water. According to critics and environmentalists, the radius chosen is arbitrary and too less, and suitable scientific methods should be adopted to determine the appropriate distance from a Protected Area.
List of projects:
There is a list of the selected projects in the new draft that have been proposed to be exempted from public participation. Modernisation or irrigation projects, all building constructions and area development projects, expansion or widening of national highways, all projects concerning national defence and security, are part of the list.
Impacts on living peoples:
There are a large number of communities like Adivasis, peasants and coastal and fisher communities whose lives mainly depend on the state of the environment. Any drastic changes in EIA will have a direct impact on the living and working conditions of these people and the ecology.
From 1992 to the present, there have been three Notifications; the last of these, the 2006 Notification has been amended more than 50 times and clarified more than 200 times through circulars since it came into force.
Therefore, it becomes imperative that all stakeholders and members of the general public send their comments and objections to the EIA Notification, 2020 at the earliest.