Environmental activists slam proposed amendments to EIA notification
Environmental activists on Wednesday strongly criticised the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Environment & Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to the EIA notification
Environmental activists on Wednesday strongly criticised the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Environment & Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to the EIA notification.
The MoEF&CC had, on Tuesday, published a set of amendments to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), 2006 notification that provides for exemption of environmental clearance (EC) to several projects, including defence related/border areas projects, those up to 25 MW thermal plants based on biomass or expansion of terminal building of airport.
Already, the Environment Ministry has proposed a volley of amendments that have been deemed as 'dilution' of the EIA process and criticised heavily by environmental activists. Those amendments, introduced in 2020, are yet to be finalised.
Kanchi Kohli, a researcher with Delhi's Centre for Policy Research (CPR), said such changes can be understood as a pick and choose approach to environment regulation. "The two assumptions based on which these changes are brought require in-depth examination. First, public utility projects are largely driven by the private sector, and their economic interests influence the environment ministry's decisions. Second, an environment management based approach assumes that detailed assessments, public participation and expert-based review can be selectively waived off, based on sector specific requests," Kohli said.
Asserting that existing EC requirements should not be diluted because it is like opening the Pandora's box & once started, there shall be no end to such demands from the industries, former forest service officer from Madhya Pradesh, Manoj Mishra pointed out that "the very need is an admission & sad reflection on poor environmental governance in the country, including awful track record of implementation of EC conditions."
When IANS broke the news about these proposed amendments on Tuesday, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav had said: "The Ministry is alive to the concerns about proper EMP implementation. We are working out the modalities to address all such issues and will soon come out with a policy regarding the same."
Wary about the Ministry's plans, Mishra suggested: "The requirement is not dilution but creation of standalone autonomous environmental institution, for instance, a National Environment Protection Agency or Environmental Commissioner of India, who should be responsible for environmental governance in the country outside of the MoEF&CC with transparency & inclusiveness in its working."
Criticising that most such projects are now being done by private sector Biswajit Mohanty, an environmentalist from Odisha said: "Except for the defence sector, there is no reason why any project of public utility be exempted from EIA."
The private sector just does not want to spend money and has a poor track record of environmental management plans, Mohanty said.
The experts also pointed out how the proposed changes neglect to mention the project landscape. "There is little or no space for site specificity i.e. grasslands or agricultural land; urban or rural, when procedures are standardised," Kohli added.