Traditional kolam as a motif of protest against the 2020 draft EIA notification

Akshaya Nath | India Today

People in various parts of Tamil Nadu on Tuesday voiced their opposition to the draft notification on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 by making traditional kolam designs to protest against the central government’s move.

The ‘kolam protest’ against EIA 2020 draft was organised by members of the civil society in Tamil Nadu. The organisers said initially the plan was to organise public gatherings, but due to the prevailing coronavirus pandemic, it was decided that they would voice their opposition by making colourful kolam designs.

Most of kolam designs carried messages like ‘withdraw EIA2020’ and ‘scrap EIA2020’.

The draft EIA notification, which involves procedure of issuing environmental clearances to various projects, was issued by the Union Environment Ministry in March, and public suggestions were invited. The environment ministry had earlier said it would not extend the deadline for people to give suggestions and opinions beyond June 30, but later gave time till August 12.

Speaking about the unique ‘kolam protest’, Viswaja Sampath, a member of the Chennai Climate Action Group, said, “We started an online campaign through which we were able to mobilise 75 youth groups across Tamil Nadu and received 1,900 endorsement for a letter that we have drafted. Since movement of people and gatherings are not possible due to the pandemic, we came up with the idea of using the age-old tradition of making kolam to voice our opinion. The appeal has received response from across the state.”

Supporting the protests against the EIA 2020 draft, DMK MP Kanimozhi in a tweet said, “The EIA, instead of protecting the environment, aims at ease of business. Progress at the cost of human existence. A countrywide protest is going on against this through kolams.”

Environmentalists, activists and other civil society members have been protesting the EIA2020 draft, which they argue harm the environment. They say the draft if adopted is likely to bring radical changes in the current EIA guidelines as it completely sets aside aspects such as seeking public opinion for environmental clearance in certain regions.

On Monday, Congress MP from Wayanad (Kerala) Rahul Gandhi stepped up his attack on the Centre over the draft environment impact assessment (EIA). He said the EIA draft must be withdrawn to stop “environmental destruction”.

Rahul Gandhi alleged that the aim of EIA 2020 draft was clear — “loot of the nation”. “This (EIA) is another dreadful example of what the BJP government has been doing for its select suit-boot ‘friends’ who loot the resources of the country,” Rahul Gandhi alleged.

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