Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday wrote to Union Minister Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar, “strongly objecting” to the proposed Environment Impact assessment Draft 2020.
The Ministry has called for suggestions and objections to be submitted by August 10, after which the draft is to be notified.
The EIA is a study carried out before the implementation of a proposed project or development to assess its impact on the environment. It is mandatory for an EIA to be carried out and approved by the ministry for most projects in the country.
The recently proposed draft has been widely criticised, with environmental experts pointing to dilution of various rules which would allow rampant infrastructure development without necessary measures to protect the environment.
Ramesh said that as the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, “it is my duty to place on record my strongest objections to the draft EIA 2020 notification” and that the draft reflects “a mindset that sees environmental regulation as unnecessary regulatory burden and not as an essential obligation to be met for the health and welfare of our people and for ensuring development that is sustainable”.
Ramesh listed five objections to the EIA draft notification, including the provision that allows for post facto approvals. This points to environmental clearance after a violation has already been made, without prior permission for project development. This, Ramesh said, goes against the very principle of assessment and public participation prior to environmental clearance and “has provisions which will routinely legitimize illegality”.
He said the draft reduces public participation in all steps of the environmental clearance process by lessening the notice period for public hearings, and doing away with them altogether for large category projects. Further, he said, the draft does away with environmental clearance altogether in “very many cases of expansion”.
“It increases validity of environmental clearances allowing projects to ‘secure’ land for long durations even when they are not constructed. This promotes land grab, not development. It gives the Union government full powers to appoint State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities. This is another nail in the coffin of cooperative federalism. These changes are not based on the three As – audits, assessments and analyses. The changes are not based on any research,” stated the letter.
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