Citing thousands of public representations seeking extension of the mandatory 60-day notice period to the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 notification published during the Covid-19 lockdown, officials in the Environment Ministry proposed that the deadline for receiving objections and suggestions to the draft be extended by another two months to August 10.
On May 5, however, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar set June 30 as the new deadline — an order to this effect was issued on May 7.
The Minister’s office was unavailable for comment.
Official records show that Ministry officials proposed that the 60-day public notice period be extended by another 60 days to August 10. The draft EIA notification, sent to the government press on March 23, was published only on April 11 due to “shortage of manpower in light of the lockdown”.
Under Rule 5 (3) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, the 60-day public notice period comes into effect “from the date on which copies of the Gazette containing this notification are made available to the public.”
Since the draft was published on April 11, the mandatory 60-day public notice period would end on June 10. By setting June 30 as the new deadline, Javadekar settled for an extension of 20 days.
File notings show that Ministry officials received several representations “majority of which are inter alia suggesting that the draft EIA Notification 2020 needs to be withheld.”
Until April 20, an official wrote, 1,190 mails were received in the email specified for the feedback. Of these, 46 offered suggestions and 1,144 requested extension of the deadline due to the pandemic.
“Numerous representations (over 4000) have been received by the undersigned also. Since the EIA Notification and any change thereto is of great significance to the management of environment in the country as a whole and to the matters of access and utilisation of natural resources, there is some merit in the request to reconsider the time limit… in view of the Corona pandemic,” stated the April 23 noting of a Joint Secretary, proposing extension of the notice period.
On May 4, file notings recorded the Environment Secretary’s instruction to extend the notice period by 60 days. Accordingly, a draft order with the new deadline of August 10 was put up for approval the same day by the Joint Secretary concerned.
On May 5, the file reached the Minister through the offices of the Additional Secretary and Secretary. Javadekar wrote June 30 as the extended deadline and signed the file.
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