EIA Notification 2020 undermines Environmental Protection
Opposition is building up against the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The draft notification encourages further pollution, with diluted regulations over industrial and development practices.
The new draft Environment Impact Assessment notification will limit the principle of public participation in environmental clearances, warns conservation biologist Neha Sinha.
A new draft of the EIA includes certain problematic and contentious changes in rules. One of these is the provision that projects can receive clearance post-facto, i.e. a project operating in violation of the EPA can now apply for clearance. This is despite an 1 April Supreme Court order that held such clearances as contrary to law.
The new draft also exempts a long list of projects as outside the purview of the EIA, including any project the government deems to label as “strategic”. The draft says that no information on “such projects shall be placed in the public domain”. The exempt list also includes all inland waterways and national highways projects. The other point of concern is that construction projects of up to 150,000 sq. m shall be exempt from EIAs.
The public consultation process for the draft EIA itself has been dogged by controversy. The environment ministry had set the deadline to 10 August because of a delay in publishing the draft in the Gazette due to the pandemic. However, environment minister Prakash Javadekar overruled the ministry to set the new deadline for 30 June. The Delhi high court set the new deadline to 11 August, while hearing a petition which sought an extension to the 30 June deadline.