Over 50 student unions, college environment clubs, and other youth groups have written to Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar, demanding to put on hold the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020, and rewrite it as per recommendations by environmental experts to lead India into a green recovery in the post-Covid world.
The ministry had published the draft notification on March 23 and soon after, the lockdown to curb Covid-19 came into force. The draft is a review of the 2006 EIA notification and has drawn criticism from environmentalists and youth groups, who have said it would be “destructive for the ecology”.
The comprehensive letter has been signed by student groups including AISA, Youth4Swaraj, JNUSU, IISER, Jain University, Jindal Global Law School, and is spearheaded by Tarang – Ashoka University’s students group that focuses on environmental issues.
“We should use the EIA to bring India out of the Covid-19 pandemic as an environmentally aware country through a green recovery. While economic revival is a national priority, this should be done without compromising the environment and society, as in the long run, it is our natural ecosystem that will support us,” said 20-year-old Anjali Dalmia from Ashoka University.
The letter states that over the last 50 years, around “50 million people in India have been displaced due to development projects” and the current amendments to the EIA pose intend to give a free reign to several businesses and industries such as mining and construction.
“In recent months/years, we have observed the effects of a weak environmental policy. Mumbai’s Aarey forest was cleared to build a metro shed despite massive protests. Vizag’s LG Polymers caused a gas leak on May 7. Assam’s Baghjan gas leak is another recent example. Land was cleared to extend the ports in Goa regardless of protests in 2016. Despite the obvious improvement of rivers and lowered pollution levels during the lockdown period, the MOEFCC is still approving destructive projects,” said Taanika Shankar and Smruthi Ananth, members of the Sustainability Committee at Azim Premji University UG.
The new EIA Draft Notification intends to bring in controversial amendments such as post-facto grant of approval, exemption of several large industries from public hearings, permission for industries to submit just one compliance report a year rather than two, increased validity of the environment clearances for mining projects and river valley projects, and others.
In May, the Environment Ministry had extended the notice period for sending in objections and suggestions to the draft notification to June 30.
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