The opposition against the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 heightened in Assam on Thursday, with former chief minister Tarun Gogoi writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to withdraw the notification.
An EIA is carried out before the implementation of a project to assess its impact on the environment. The recent draft has run into criticism, with environmental experts pointing out dilution of safeguards against rampant infrastructural development without necessary checks for environmental protection.
In his letter, Gogoi wrote, “If this proposed draft EIA becomes an Act, it will seriously harm all ecological aspects of the region.” The Congress leader said that not only people of Assam and the Northeast, but “from the entire Himalayan region including Himachal, Uttarakhand, Kashmir and Ladakh are greatly concerned about this notification”.
“This notification has given unlimited power to the authority to take any kind of steps which will be harmful to safeguard our natural resources. Such arbitrary power is likely to be misused by big corporate groups,” Gogoi wrote.
Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Assembly and Congress leader Debabrata Saikia wrote to both Union Environment minister Prakash Javadekar on July 23and the Speaker of the Assam Assembly in June, sharply criticising the draft EIA notification.
Saikia told The Indian Express on Thursday, “The EIA draft notification in its current form will spell doom for Assam’s environment and people. Assam government should bring a new law to protect the state’s environment from such a threat.”
Numerous influential socio-political groups in the state are also continuing their campaign against the proposed notification.
Lurinjyoti Gogoi, the general secretary of the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), told The Indian Express, “The notification in its current form is a conspiracy to facilitate the loot of natural resources of Assam.
“By reducing the scope of public hearing, it takes away the power of people to object and raise questions on projects. It will lead to environmental hazards and bio-degradation,” he said.
Several other activists and groups in Assam — including the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, led by Akhil Gogoi — have also spoken against the EIA draft notification.
The opposition to the EIA draft notification in Assam has come after two major environment-related issues that sparked outrage. In April, the National Board of Wildlife’s (NBWL) gave conditional clearance to a coal mining project in the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. Amidst outrage, the state government later clarified that “no final approval for mining had been accorded”.
Then in May, a blowout at a natural gas well of Oil India Limited located close to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park later caught fire, killing two firefighters, displacing thousands of residents of the area, and causing significant damage to an eco-sensitive zone. The blowout and the fire are yet to be extinguished.