Civil society groups urge Centre to cease ‘backdoor’ implementation of draft EIA 2020

Gaurav Sarkar | Mid-Day

Coming down heavily on the Union Environment Ministry for introducing more than 30 amending notes diluting the provisions of the EIA notification, since the draft EIA 2020 was publicly rejected, over 100 civil society organisations and individuals have written to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, asking him to accept and acknowledge the CSIR-NEERI report. They want him to put in place a transparent and independent mechanism, to identify and incorporate the comments received regarding the draft notification.

In March 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change had published the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020. “Over 20 lakh comments were sent to the ministry to register the objections, improvements, and implications of the proposed changes in the Environment Clearance Process for most industrial and infrastructural projects on the environment and society at large,” said the undersigned of the letter, in an excerpt from it in a press release they issued. The ministry then asked CSIR-NEERI to collate and compile the comments and objections for draft EIA 2020.

After going through this report in detail, over 100 groups and individuals, on Monday wrote to the ministry to acknowledge and accept the NEERI report’s conclusion that there are serious problems with the EIA Draft 2020. They also urged the ministry to ensure transparency and objectivity regarding MoEFCC’s next steps with respect to the draft EIA Notification 2020. The key recommendations included in the letter, are to stop the backdoor implementation of the Draft EIA 2020, ensure transparency on the way forward, and formation of an independent committee by the MoEFCC to analyze the comments in the report, including that of the vulnerable population.

Yash Marwah, the founder of Let India Breathe (LIB), who is one of the signatories of the letter, said, “The CSIR-NEERI report has also brought to the fore the need to ‘holistically analyze and brainstorm amongst the peer groups’ the comments received from the stakeholders and other recommendations by expert committees of the MoEF&CC, recommendations by judiciary bodies, CAG, etc to suitably amend, clarify, detail out, and improve the present draft EIA 2020 notification for the larger goal of enhanced environmental protection.”

When asked about what were the concerns from stakeholders, he said, “Backdoor implementation, lack of transparency, lack of independence, and lack of qualitative assessment by the government of feedback given by the public. For this, the report needs to qualitatively consider the feedback by civic society at large about public hearing/ Post facto/ definitions used/categorisation of projects/preparation of EIA report/post-clearance monitoring as well as an exception given to projects/activities, etc.”

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