Draft EIA 2020: A legal pass to foul players of the environment

The draft Environmental Impact assessment 2020 notification intends to remove major environmental acts from public purview

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NH Web Desk

The Modi government has come up with another controversial decision of diluting a strong existing  provision made for safeguarding the environment. The draft Environmental Impact assessment 2020 notification intends to remove major environmental acts from public purview. Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 notification, which has been placed by the government for public feedback, is “disgraceful” and “dangerous” and has the potential to undo hard-fought gains won over the years in the battle to protect the environment.

1. Modi government has come up with controversial EIA 2020

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 notification, which has been placed by the government for public feedback, is “disgraceful” and “dangerous” and has the potential to undo hard-fought gains won over the years in the battle to protect the environment.

2. The EIA 2020 notification is “disgraceful” and “dangerous”, said Rahul Gandhi

“The EIA 2020 draft is a disaster. It seeks to silence the voice of communities who will be directly impacted by the environmental degradation it unleashes,” Gandhi said.

3. The EIA 2020 seeks to silence the voice of communities who will be directly impacted by the environmental degradation.

“Not only does it have the potential to reverse many of the hard-fought gains that have been won over the years in the battle to protect our environment, it could potentially unleash widespread environmental destruction and mayhem across India,” he said.

4. EIA 2020 could potentially unleash widespread environmental destruction and mayhem across India

Jairam Ramesh, the head of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, continued his criticism of the draft. Pointing out that the Environment Protection Act of 1986 came about after the Bhopal gas tragedy, he said that the draft EIA will undo many key provisions of the EPA,1986. “Hence it’s not only dangerous but blatantly illegal. Subordinate legislation cannot rewrite the mother law,” he said.

5. Jairam Ramesh has also criticised the EIA calling it blatantly illegal.

Rahul Gandhi has questioned the exemptions proposed in the draft.India issued the country’s first Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification in 1994, under the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA) of 1986. This was later replaced by a modified draft in 2006. In both forms, the EIA performs the important function of assessing and regulating the impact of new projects on the environment.

6. Rahul Gandhi has questioned the exemptions proposed in the draft

A new draft of the EIA has been proposed by the Union government this year, which includes certain problematic and contentious changes in rules. One of these is the provision that projects can receive clearance post-facto, i.e. a project operating in violation of the EPA can now apply for clearance.

7. A project operating in violation of the EPA can now apply for clearance.

This is despite an 1 April Supreme Court order that held such clearances as contrary to law.The new draft also exempts a long list of projects as outside the purview of the EIA, including any project the government deems to label as "strategic".

8. The new draft exempts a long list of projects as outside the purview of the EIA

The draft says that no information on "such projects shall be placed in the public domain". The exempt list also includes all inland waterways and national highways projects. The other point of concern is that construction projects of up to 150,000 sq. m shall be exempt from EIAs.

9. According to the new draft, construction projects of up to 150,000 sq. m shall be exempt from EIAs.

The public consultation process for the draft EIA itself has been dogged by controversy. The mandatory public feedback window was originally set to expire on 10 June, but the environment ministry had set the new deadline to 10 August because of a delay in publishing the draft in the Gazette due to the pandemic.

10. The government has been tweaking regulations as per its convenience

The draft EIA notification tries to dismantle the core idea that an assessment should be done before a project starts. One of the provisions of the new draft is that projects that have come up illegally, that is, projects without environmental clearances can actually be legalized.

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