The draft was published by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of India on 23rd March, making some major changes in the guidelines. The Environment Protection Act was first implemented by the Government of India in the year 1986, which included EIA.
What is EIA and Why is it Important?
Environment Impact Assessment in basic language refers to a process of checking the impact of a project or development on the environment, taking into consideration other important aspects such as socio-economic, cultural, and human health impacts.
The main aim of EIA is to identify and predict the impact of projects, evaluate the effects, and promote sustainable ways of development. Every project suggested by the government, any real estate project, infrastructure projects, power plants, construction of roads, highways, etc, everything has to undergo EIA.
Any project which has a lot of negative impacts is not given clearance, and amendments in the plans are asked to be made.
EIA Process In India
Initially, the project and the site for it is decided, which is followed by the EIA. A No Objection Certificate (NOC) is then filled and a Public Hearing is conducted. The locals and other residents of the states and country are asked their opinions about the judgment, whether a particular project should be permitted. This report is then sent to the Expert Appraisal Committee, which is a group of scientists who will do a further assessment. The committee decides how the negative impacts, if small, can be overcome. It also suggests compensations to the affected communities.
Project site selection-> NOC-> Public Hearing-> Expert Appraisal Committee Assessment-> Suggestions-> Permission or Rejection
Is Implementation Done Well?
There are tons of cases in India where the construction of plants was given a nod WITHOUT conducting a public hearing. A lot of times, the local communities are threatened not to go against the project. A cumulative effect of all these is seen in the numerous accidents that happen in power plants and elsewhere in India.
The Vizag Gas leak, a pretty recent disaster, the LG polymer Plant did not have environmental clearance. The gas leak killed 11 people and affected 1000 more locals. Check this link for more info.
The recent Oil Blast at Oil India Limited plant in Baghjan, the public hearing for the assessment was SKIPPED. 7000 people had to be evacuated while 2 died, and the plant is located near Dibru- Siakhowa National Park. The impact, I will let you imagine.
Read here the detailed story. Click here to read about this.
Hence there is no doubt about the fact that EIA is not implemented well in India. Also, MoEFCC released a new draft with changed guidelines, called EIA draft 2020.
Amendments in EIA
The new drafts say activities under the B2 category will be exempted from public hearings as well as approval form the appraisal committee, which means neither the local population nor the scientific community can share their concerns.
The projects include Mining of minor minerals, with an area less than or equal to 5 hectares if mining lease area, Offshore, and onshore Oil and Gas, development of infrastructure for gas collection, Thermal power plants less than or equal to 5 MW, Mineral beneficiation involving physical process and physio-chemical process for Small and Medium enterprises, Metallurgical industry and many more. I am attaching the document of EIA here. You can read from page 37 onwards to see the list of projects exempted from pubic hearings.
This means, if the government or a private firm wants to do mining in an area, they DO NOT need public approval, hence the exploitation of the land, on which thousands of locals and tribes live, is inevitable.
All the projects concerning national defence and security were also exempted from the public hearing. Also, category B2 projects do not require Scoping. Scoping is the process of developing a document which states all the potential impact of the project on the environment. Hence we can say, the projects will be approved without needing them to submit a detailed report of the impact their operation will have.
Hence, I believe the article made it clear enough why there is a need to withdraw the draft. Even a small project must not be permitted without a public hearing as the local communities suffered when things so sideways.
Banned Official Websites of Leading Environment Groups
On 12th July, the official websites of 3 leading environment conservation groups in India were banned for no reason. The groups are Fridays for Future India, There is No Earth B, and Let India Breathe. These groups are active in spreading awareness about EIA 2020 and are actively opposing the draft. Ban just a month before the last date of submission of mails seems very questionable.
Provisions for Suggesting Concerns
Any person (even you), who wants to make a suggestion or object to any amendment made in the act, can write for consideration to Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, New Delhi, or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The last date of sending the mail is August 11th, 2020. Find the petition here to withdraw EIA 2020.
Development So Far
On 5th August 2020, the Karnataka HC blocked the publishing of the final draft of EIA2020 by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. The division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi passed the order. The petition was filed by Bengaluru based welfare trust, seeking the stay as the notification was not published in Kannada, and a large population of the state is not aware of it.
I hereby request my readers to kindly send a mail.
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