EIA Draft, 2020
New updates to the Environmental Impact Assessment Draft, 2020 notice set out the process for companies to determine the economic and environmental effects of their planned operations and the method by which they will be evaluated by expert committees appointed by the Ministry of the Environment.
Why is the draft problematic?
The current draft breaches many provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the Prevention of Genocide Act, 1989, as well as other legislation protecting local communities’ rights. The draft infringes the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The legislation also limits the role of environmental consultants and scientists in environmental clearance systems.
Draft EIA 2020 has a description issue. It provides precise definitions of eco-sensitive areas and also tends to leave several protected areas out of its definition, such as wetlands, coasts, reserve forests, village forests etc.
Definition indirectly favours the polluters and violators and ignores the conditions regarding environment violating projects which are approved by regulatory authority.
The deforestation for future initiatives will reduce carbon sinks and the habitat loss of ecologically associated biodiversity (inclusive humans) will also increase. It all would result in a further deterioration of the environmental and ecological equilibrium, leading to a disaster.
It can be characterized by the easiness, instead of common people’s rights, but of manufacturing, company, company, capitalism. As more than 40 hazardous projects have been discharged from public discussion.
As the EIA draft notification was published in two languages, i.e. Hindi and English concerning official languages act by the Central Government. This subsequently led in raising of many objections against it, regarding its publicity.
Karnataka also lifted its voice against the same by filing a petition i.e. United Conservation Movement Charitable and Welfare Trust(r) v. Union of India. Petitioners claimed that, the draft notification breaches the former practices and lacked sufficient publicity. The draft was not published in vernacular languages and was only made available on official website of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Also, inadequate time was provided by the centre, to the public for sharing their views and opinions.
Therefore, Karnataka High Court restrain the Central Government from publishing the EIA Daft final Notification i.e. passing the legislation, provided to lend reasonable time to public in order to file objections and send feedback regarding the draft. Also, to translate the draft in all the 22 languages which are recognised by the schedule 8 of Indian Constitution. Union Ministry of Environment was asked to take permissible necessary steps concerning impugned EIA draft notification. The Government was cautioned regarding the publicising the controversial draft otherwise, court will pass a stay order through an interim prayer (was verbally mentioned by the bench).
Hence, the Government cannot proceed with publishing the final draft notification without verifying and satisfying the plea of petitioners.
Karnataka’s united Conservation Movement (UCM) has begun an online petition calling on the public to demand and seek an enhanced and impugned EIA. The EIA 2020 draft tends to encourage increased emissions, by diluting restrictions on manufacturing and construction activities. In this era of tremendous pollution in our city areas, the EIA 2020 needs to be improved, rather than permitting over 30 criteria that dilute the reports for more than 25 hazardous industries.
Ecological scientists and environmentalists in Karnataka warns that diluting EIA will be a direction towards disaster. This will harm the Indian Biodiversity hotspots especially the sensitive areas of Western Ghats which is ecologically fragile and is already degrading.
EIA is defined by the UNEP as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It involves public opinion regarding likely environmental impacts of a proposed project with an aim to reduce adverse impacts. The Delhi High Court in Samarth Trust case had considered EIAs “a part of participatory justice in which the voice is given to the voiceless and it is like a jan sunwai, where the community is the jury.”
The government needs to promote and protect the right to life and a healthy environment as mentioned in the Article 21.
The government needs to bring down the delays in granting environmental clearance in order to improve India’s position in the ease of doing business rankings. Covid-19 has given us all a wakeup call to mend our relationship with the Earth; therefore, it’s time to make environmental laws stricter. The need for stricter and efficient environmental laws has become imperative in the present age of climate change. Administrations, on a domestic and a global level need to formulate policies that reduce their carbon footprint and the per capita emissions of greenhouse gases. The first step in making this change towards a sustainable future is to regulate and monitor the activities of the industries that contribute the majority share towards polluting the environment, which means that firm environmental clearances and legislations need to be enforced. The EIA is such a draft that aims to assess the impact of such projects on the environment.
 W.P. NO. 8362/2020 [PIL]