Draft EIA 2020 Encourages Environmental Violations
The draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, currently open for public comments and set to replace the 2006 version, has come under heavy fire from the environmentalists. The EIA notification governs the environment clearance process for industrial and infrastructural projects.
Up to 25 MW hydro-power projects will be exempted from EIA. Thus, even if the projects have any serious local level implications, they will not be scrutinised. Under the present system (EIA notification 2006), any project up to 25 MW hydro-power project or up to 10,000ha irrigation project if found to be environmentally harmful as per the local site conditions, the State Expert Appraisal Committee can categorise it as B1 project requiring EIA. The projects would then be appraised at the state government level.
Also, if the project fulfilled general condition that it is proposed in close proximity of or if located in whole or in part within 10 km from the boundary of protected areas, critically polluted areas, eco-sensitive areas, inter-state and international boundaries then it was automatically categorised into Category A project to be appraised at the central government level.”
Under the proposed draft, the general condition does not apply to the B2 category projects. Thus many hydro-power projects, up to 25 MW, can come up within 10 km of the sensitive areas. The cumulative footprint will be much larger and there are chances of the projects being split on paper into multiples of 25MW installed capacity.
Further, thresholds for categorisation can be changed by the technical committee appointed by the MOEFCC. Projects under category B are further categorised as B1 and B2. Thus it may happen that projects with much greater capacity or command area will be pushed under category B2 and can thus threaten the ecologically important pockets. Once the clearance is granted, it is for a lifetime and there is no review.