How the revised green clearance norms will impact women

Courtesy: Centre for Social Justice

The Environment Impact Assessment Draft of 2020 by the Union Government has received a lot of criticism. The notification states certain changes that go against the very purpose of conducting an environmental impact assessment.

The notification makes the following changes:

  1. It allows for post-facto clearance meaning thereby projects that were not approved, could be cleared. This would see a rise in ‘illegal’ projects being given environmental clearance. 
  2. Certain projects termed as ‘strategic’ can be exempted from seeking clearances. This would give unfettered power to the Government to go on with projects that could potentially harm the environment. Moreover, what is included under ‘strategic projects’ is left to the government to define.
  3. Another problematic issue that arose was the fact that the complaints made against projects were to be made by a government representative or by the project proponent. This completely excludes complaints made by the public.
  4. Furthermore, public participation is weakened by reducing the number of days to file a complaint from 30 days to 20 days. Needless to say, it is not reasonable and does not give sufficient time for people to file in their queries/complaints. It alienates the indigenous communities that are most affected by these projects. 

This draft among other problems weakens any participation from the public. We have witnessed the immense degradation of land and also the displacement of a large number of indigenous communities due to these large scale projects. It affects their livelihood and has led to a rise in global climate change.

Now, how does this affect women? We have understood that environmentalists and ecologists call for making responsible choices to create a sustainable future and at the very crux of it, the philosophy is to not detach yourselves from the environment. With the emergence of capitalism and urbanization, there is an accumulation of power in the hands of a few. Most of the time, they tend to the exploitation of resources which is not sustainable. This assumption of power often comes from a place of privilege, mainly held by males, owing to the gender disparity in societies.

Eco-Feminism

There comes in a movement known as eco-feminism. Ms.Vandana Shiva and Maria Ames in their work, describe it as a ‘new term for an ancient wisdom’ which is a manifestation of various social movements like the feminist, peace, and ecology movements. Though this was first used by Francoise D’Eaubonne, a French feminist, it became popular only in the context of numerous protests and activities against environmental destruction, sparked-off initially by recurring ecological disasters.

Eco -feminism speaks about how the advent of industrialization led to the building of Capitalistic Patriarchal order in society. Capitalistic patriarchy exhibited the fact that powerful men running industries assumed control over the environment which mirrored their need for social control in their lives. Science and technology were not considered gender-neutral and therefore, it also meant establishing superiority over women in society.

Thus, eco-feminism points out three segregations that have existed since centuries:

  • Firstly, separation from nature, by falsely constructing that humans are separate from nature. This was facilitated by the claim that humans held a superior position to control and exploit nature. It is this assumption that led to industrialists going forward with hazardous projects.
  • Secondly, the creation of an artificial hierarchy between women and men. It started with a belief that women’s contribution was limited to domestic life and procreation. This hindered access of women to traditional positions of powerIt also led to increased instances of violence against women.
  • Thirdly, Eco-feminism talks about the economic disparity between classes. The wealthy acquiring lands of the backward or indigenous people. This was mainly a result of the class structure and economic hierarchy.

These segregations expose the ‘passivity’ imposed on nature by industrialists as well as on women as the second sex. The masculine purpose of nature, as Ms Vandana Shiva explains, was always to capture nature as if it held a subservient place, but never to listen to it.

The coming of Eco-Feminism to India

In India, one of the most prominent examples of Eco-feminism was the Chipko Movement in the 1970s. Herein, villagers in Uttar Pradesh that predominantly comprised of women, protested against deforestation of their lands, by ‘hugging’ the trees around them. While the movement was hailed for being a protest for forest conservation. It was appreciated as an Eco-feminist movement since women protested against oppression and domination by men over these resources that women had little or no agency.

In the context of The Environment Impact Assessment notification, we observe that it could give unfettered power and freedom to industrial giants. This notification comes in a time when the country is still recovering from multiple gas leaks {Baghjan and Vizag} that were extremely hazardous. The gas leaks are a wake-up call to strengthen safety in these industries and for strict compliance with regulations. Instead, of providing room for escaping accountability and transparency, the  Government must aim at formulating stringent measures to curb such disasters from happening.

Capitalistic patriarchy not only has an adverse impact on the environment but also aggravates violence against women. It establishes a violent economic and social order. Eco-feminism strives to combat false constructions of superiority and separation from nature by men holding power. It calls for the liberation of nature and of women. And it is more needed now than ever, as the exploitation of the environment has only risen and has led to global warming. It has therefore also further impacted the power dynamics between the wealthy and the poor and between men and women. Violence against women still remains an alarming issue and therefore, this calls for combating this ‘epidemic’ of exploitation.

1 Mies, Maria, and Vandana Shiva. Ecofeminism. Zed Books, 1993.

All the views belong to the Author: Yamini Tyagi, a lawyer based in Vadodra.

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