August 19, 2020 3:31:12 pm
The draft environment impact assessment (EIA) notification is in a series of moves that the BJP-led central government has taken to dilute environmental laws, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh claimed on Wednesday.
He described the notification as “deeply anti-democratic, “anti-public” and “anti-cooperative federalism.” He accused Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar of seeing his job as being an accelerator for project clearances and not as a guardian/protector of India’s natural resources.
“His job is to protect the environment, his job is to protect the forests, his job is to enforce the laws of the land that we have. But he does not see it that way. He sees his job as being an accelerator for project clearances….not as a guardian/protector of India’s natural resources,” Ramesh said.
Speaking at a webinar on ‘Draft EIA Notification 2020’, organised by Dr. M Channa Reddy Memorial Trust, he said: “This Draft EIA Notification 2020 is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s only part of the problem. The real problem is that in the last couple of years the governing philosophy gave greatest priority…in the name of ease of doing business environmental rules and regulations are seen as a speed-breaker…they are seen as a break on ease of doing business.”
He claimed in the last couple of years pollution norms for power plants and rules that governed the development of coastal areas have been diluted and large number of clearances given to coal mines in rich/dense forest areas in Maharashtra, Odisha and Jharkhand particularly.
The draft EIA notification, which involves procedure of issuing environmental clearances to various projects, was issued by the Union Environment Ministry in March this year.
Ramesh, a former environment minister, further claimed the National Green Tribunal has been systematically weakened. According to Ramesh, the draft EIA reduces the scope for public hearings. “..no local communities, no NGOs, no civil city organisations, no concerned citizens can bring environmental violations to the notice of the government. Only the project proponents and only government agencies will highlight environmental violations.”
According to him, the first flaw in the draft EIA is deeply anti-democratic and it completely eliminates the scope for the public to take an active part in environmental monitoring and environmental decision making. Central government is going to set up state-level environmental impact assessment authorities, he said and wanted to know what sort of cooperative federalism is this.
He further stressed the need to strengthen existing institutions and enforce existing laws rather than to come up with new ones. The Congress party has taken a very pro-active, a very clear stand, he said.
“We are for investments, we are for jobs, we are for faster economic recovery, but not at the cost of the environment because that will be at the cost of public health,” the Congress leader said. He said 20 lakh public representations have gone to the Ministry of Environment on this (draft EIA) notification.
“What the government will do on this notification I can’t say…..in the name of ease of doing business, they want to systematically dilute, weaken environmental laws, environmental institutions and I think this is a cause of great concern,” he added.
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