Objecting to the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 issued by the Centre, state Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray has said it fails to align with the 2016 Paris Climate agreement and poses a great threat to the goal of sustainable growth.
In a letter to Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, on August 10 – a day before the deadline to file objections and suggestions by the public ended – Aaditya raised several issues, including exemption being granted to environmentally destructive activities like coal prospecting, crushing and screening of iron ore as well as seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration.
He also raised the fact that while the new norms did not require public consultations for up to 50 per cent expansion of the existing projects, for expansion up to 25 per cent of the existing projects, the EIA process was not needed to be followed at all.
Aaditya further objected to granting of ex-post facto environment clearance to projects and the fact that violations would be legally recognised only if reported by project proponents and government officials and not by the affected persons.
“If projects are approved in ecologically sensitive regions such as Konkan without extensive public deliberations, it will have an adverse impact on the region’s biodiversity, livelihood of fishermen and agriculture produce,” he said.
He added that the Sahyadris or the Western Ghats is listed in the world’s eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity and large parts of the Western Ghats are eco-sensitive areas (ESA). “It is observed that the draft EIA narrows down the definitions of ESAs, effectively excluding villages, forests, wetland, coasts, etc,” he wrote.
“By diluting the nature and scope of scrutiny of environmental impacts of proposed projects, and by not considering climate change impact in the decision-making processes, the proposed notification goes against the mandate given to the government under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” stated the letter.
“The voice of the citizens, project-affected locals, and the unheard voice of Mother Nature must be heard by the governments. It is the public’s interest that must be upheld rather than those of clearances, and the environment is at the core of people’s interest,” it added.
The Worli MLA urged Javadekar to take these issues into consideration. “The notification, in its present form, fails to align with the Paris Climate agreement and poses a great threat to our goal of achieving sustainable growth,” he said.
Aaditya, who has built a reputation for taking up environment causes – last year he participated in a campaign against tree felling at Aarey Colony in Mumbai for the construction of a Metro car shed — also expressed concern over reducing the state government’s role in decisions related to the environment.
“The Draft EIA 2020 gives power to the central government to appoint state EIA assessment authorities. State governments are more akin to environmental matters because they possess a better knowledge of ecological sensitivities of their local regions…,” he wrote.
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