After receiving numerous representations for extending the notice period of the draft Environment Impact Assessment notification 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 7 May 2020 announced that the notice period has been extended to June 30. The deadline for sending in objections and suggestions to the draft notification was to end on May 22. The ministry had published the draft notification on March 23 and soon after, the lockdown to curb COVID-19 came into force. Representations from environmental and policy research groups, civil society organisations and members of parliament, including former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, had requested for an extension. They had argued that the lockdown restricted the consultation process of the public and stakeholders, many of whom don’t have access to the internet.
 
 
What
  1. The draft is a review of the 2006 EIA notification and has drawn criticism from environmentalists, who have said it is a “dilution of existing environmental norms’’.
  2. These are new regulations being brought in after 14 years and yet it does not address the challenges that we face. We are a signatory of the Paris Agreement and yet this EIA draft is fundamentally faulty – there is no proposed action which actually protects the environment.
  3. On the contrary, we find environmental regulations are being further relaxed. One of the fundamental issues is that projects with violations, especially construction, can now receive post facto clearance, said environmental lawyer Rwitick Dutta.
  4. Centre for Policy Research pointed out that waterway projects have also been included in the EIA’s B2 category and will “not require prior environmental clearance’’. 
  5. For instance, the gas leak that occurred in Visakhapatnam today; while this is an accident, there will now have to be an investigation to see whether this was a lapse. 
  6. To ensure that violations leading to such incidents don’t take place, laws have to be more stringent. Such lapses adversely affect the economy.
  7. The Central government, in exercise of the powers conferred under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 published the draft notification namely, Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2020 dated March 23, 2020 in the official gazette on April 11, 2020.
  8. This was for the information of the public likely to be affected thereby and for making any objections or suggestions on the proposal contained in the draft notification within 60 days from the date on which copies of the Gazette containing said draft notification were made available to the public.
  9. An online petition was moved asking the Environment Ministry to withdraw the draft EIA notification, 2020 in the light of the Covid-2019 pandemic.
  10. The petition for which 11,060 people have given their inputs, includes a letter to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. The Environment Ministry has put out a draft EIA notification, 2020 on March 12, and sought comments from the public within 60 days from this date.
  11. Since 1994, this notification has been an important tool for the legal assessment of social and environmental impacts of development projects and for organising public participation before the setting up or expansion of industrial and infrastructure projects in the country.
Flashback
  1. Government of India’s environment ministry has proposed a new set of rules to govern the country’s environment clearance regime for industrial projects like dams, mines, airports, highways etc on March 2020.
  2. The draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, which was unveiled last week, proposes to ease processes for business, does away with the public hearings for many projects, ease rules for expansion of projects among other things.
  3. Environmentalists and researchers who analysed the draft, point out that the draft EIA 2020 legitimises violations by those who start projects without environment clearance, weakens the public consultation process and gives a lot of discretionary powers to authorities.