Written by Prakriti Panwar, a grade 11 student.
The EIA (Environment Impact Assessment), as the name suggests is a process which ‘studies the environmental impact of a proposed project’. The EIA procedure mainly studies the effect of big industrial projects on the social, cultural, and environmental aspects and thereafter, suggests environment and community-friendly alternatives/solutions in the early stages of the project itself.
Almost every country has an EIA. In India, however, the EIA was formed to achieve the objectives of the Environment Protection Act of 1986. The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster of 1984 greatly shaped the enactment of all this.
So, what is wrong with the new EIA draft?
The 2020 EIA notification mainly talks of two types of approvals- the EC or the ‘prior environment clearance’ by experts, and the EP, or the ‘environmental provision’ which is done without consulting any experts.
The notification also mentions that 40 projects (building foundations, solar thermal power plants, clay and sand extraction, effluent treatment plants etc.) need not go through either the EP or the EC, which basically means that they are excused from any sort of expert interference or consultation. The Centre of Science and Environment even stated that such a ‘construction boom’ would lead to increased carbon emissions, thus making it unfit for people to live in cities.
Moreover, other projects, such as irrigation, acid manufacturing, production of chemical fertilizers and biomedical waste treatment facilities also need not go through a ‘public consultation’ process. Hence, the citizens have no say in any of these projects, all of which are potentially hazardous and are capable of affecting the livelihood of laymen.
Projects which have been set up without environmental clearance, that is, are illegal, are also eligible to be granted clearance even after the inauguration.
Another important thing that was omitted from the new draft was the ability for the public to report any cases of ‘violations or non-compliance’. The government will be accepting reports only from the ‘violator-promoters’, government authorities, and the Regulatory Authority.
In all, the provisions mentioned in the 2020 draft of the EIA, are contradictory and go against its very basic principle-protecting the environment.
What are people doing about it?
In response to the controversial draft, many environmentalists and youth organizations have signed petitions, drafted several emails to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The youth, despite being confined to their houses, created movements via social media and sent collective suggestions and objections to the government by 11th August 2020.