‘Govt Diluting EIA Rules For Business’: Activists Raise Red Flags
Environmentalists accused the government of trying to dilute environment clearance laws for business gains.
“It seems as if Ministry of Environment and Forest is more worried about economic affairs and economic health rather than ecological health.”
Several environmentalists have raised red flags with the draft Environment Impact Assessment Bill 2020 and accused the government of trying to dilute the clearance laws for business benefits.
Decoding the Red Flags in the Draft EIA Bill
Environmental activist Vimlendu Jha says, “The new draft of EIA 2020 that the government has formulated and floated for feedback is extremely controversial and is actually against the values of environment protection that was envisaged in the Environment Protection Act 1986.”
1. Post-Facto Project Clearance
Vikrant Tongad, who had petitioned in the Delhi HC regarding the EIA bill explained what the clause of the Post-facto environment means and what impact it bears. He said, “Post-facto clearance means a project can start and even complete its construction and then seek an environmental clearance. This is against the main principle of EIA notification that was established by the government of India in 1994. The purpose of that was so to ensure corporate seek prior environment clearance. The Supreme Court has also objected to post facto environmental clearance.”
2. Citizens Can’t Complain of Violations
Vimlendu Jha says, “The most disgusting part of this draft is how role of civil society and role of citizens have been compromised. The draft, very clearly, says that citizens have no role or public consultation has no role in actually formulating a policy or talking about violation by an industry.”
He added, “In a way, we are saying that an industry does not need to take permission and needs to self asses and self report if there is a violation. Citizens are not allowed to do it.”
3. Long List of Projects Exempted From EIA Clearance
Jha said, “Very interestingly, many polluting industries, almost 25 red and orange category industries which include production of chemicals and acid, river valley projects, mining in several areas, they all have been exempted from seeking any environment clearance.”
4. Ecologically Dangerous Projects Allowed
“There are many construction activities that have been allowed in ecologically sensitive areas and in close proximity of protected forest. Earlier, the limit was 10 km boundary, now that has been reduced to 5 kms,” said Jha.
He added, “We don't have enough natural resources yet we are going about doing this plunder in many many ways.”
5. Time Allotted For Public Feedback Dogged in Controversy
Tongad, whose petition demanded that the timing for public feedback be increased for more efficient discussions, said, “The time for public consultation which used to be for 30 days was reduced to 20 days. This deters people from submitting their feedback or doing proper research before a public hearing.”
Delhi High Court had overruled environment ministry's reduced deadline and allowed public feedback to be submitted till 11 August. The High Court also allowed a plea seeking to publish the EIA bill in 22 languages.
“ This draft has been published in just English and Hindi, but our Constitution specified 22 languages which includes regional languages. We had urged that the draft bill be translated in regional languages too. So the High Court has granted our petition,” said Tongad.
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