The government of India released the new Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) draft on 12th March this year. It was introduced in India in the year 1977 for assessing the environmental, social and economic cost of an activity. While many new policies and rules are added to the earlier version of the draft (EIA 2006), this version has done away with various crucial regulations as well and hence has earned itself a reputation as a regressive departure from the previous draft. The leniency that has been added to the initial draft rules, will not only jeopardise our national environment but would also put at stake our legacy for the future generation.
Many environmentalists are considering the EIA draft 2020 to be a major setback to the sustainable development goal. This draft has introduced various controversial policies which are argued to encourage violations of environmental protection policies.
Some of these are –
1. Post facto clearance-The EIA 2020 comes with a post-facto clearance clause which allows 40 different categories of industries, as also certain government projects labelled as ‘strategic’, to continue with their work and apply for environmental clearance later on during the continuation of the project. The requirement of prior environmental clearance has been done away within this draft. This would make it easier for such companies to evade environmental accountability.
2. The Suo Motu Declaration – This clause gives an open hand to the industries involved in environmental damage, to exploit even more. According to this policy, any firm or industry that are operating against the environmental accord, shall realize and accept their “mistake ” on their own and present them before the court of law to be judged and awarded due punishments. No provision for public complain in this regard has been made herein.
This is rather very detrimental for the environmentalists who would not even be able to raise their voice against any environment degrading project in a court of law. They would just be allowed to wait for a light of self-realization to strike upon the project owners so that they register complaints against themselves. I know it sounds hilarious, but it’s true.
3. Response time reduction- This draft has also reduced the public response time (the time given to the public to acknowledge and register a legal suit against an environment regulations violator) from already low 30 days to even lower 20 days. If no issue is raised against a project within these 20 days by anyone, the project would be cleared for continuation.
4. Validity Extension- The new draft has also extended the environmental clearance validity for mining projects from 30 to 50 years and for river valley projects, it has been increased from 10 to 15 years. This means that once these projects get environmental clearance at their start, they won’t be required to get any kind of clearance for another 50 and 15 years respectively, even if they go on to excessively deplete the resources during these years against the proposed amount.
The list is not over. There are more objectionable clauses in this draft which appear to be anything but environment protecting. Luckily enough, the EIA 2020 is currently in a draft stage and the supreme court is receiving petitions and pleas from environmentalists around the globe to make necessary changes in the draft before introducing it to the nation, otherwise, it would put many diversities and natural resources at risk of irrevocable loss and first and foremost, our legacy to the upcoming generation would be at stake.
Author: Sheo Rama Department of Economic Studies and Policy Central University of South Bihar