The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently proposed a draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)2020 that seeks to replaces the existing one from 2006,which comes under the environment protection Act,1986. Recently ,there has been a lot of uproar and objections regarding the same.
What is An EIA?
An EIA ,which stands for Environment Impact assessment , carefully examines and makes a scientific estimate of the environmental, social and the economic impacts of any public project being undertaken . It also provides for public consultation as well as public hearings at which the local community or even a concerned citizen can give their opinions ,debate and discuss matters and raise objections to the project thereby making sure that it doesn’t harm our habitat and disturb the balance of the natural ecosystem.
What’s new about The EIA 2020?
The new proposed draft EIA excludes several projects from the public consultation domain such as oil, inland waterways project, widening of highways , aerial ropeways in ecologically sensitive areas, building construction , several chemicals and area development projects etc. among others.
Not only that, coal and non-coal mineral prospecting and solar photovoltaic projects do not need prior environmental clearance or permission in the new scheme.
So why the widespread public concern?
The EIA 2020 treats public consultation as a tertiary issue according to its opponents and violates several provisions under the Environment Protection act . Scientists ,researchers and students delineate that the fundamental precautionary principles and public participation norms needed to ensure the protection of our natural habitat have been largely undermined .
The EIA 2020 can be a subject to criticism on many levels .First off , it completely disregards the securing of environmental clearances before construction ,something which often results in the destruction of ecosystems and in chemical industries ,most of which use harmful chemicals that pose a huge threat to both humans and the environment. It also proposes that public response for any project be reduced from 30 days to 20 days , advertently reducing the time the public needs in order to carefully assess and subsequently raise their objections towards it. This will lead to less transparency between the public and what’s actually going on. Another highly appalling change being induced is that the government could declare any project as “ strategic” on its own will and block out exterior consultation .This is a direct hit on our democracy and our rights as a citizen. The government has wrongfully decided to take away the power which resides with the people, the power to make change and be a part of the decisions that directly affect us and the place we reside in.
Our administration ,with a little help of technocratic language , is misusing the EIA to promote businesses instead of safeguarding the environment from the harm the very same businesses cause .In a way ,its resonating the largely growing skepticism of important environmental laws ,blaming them for economic losses. In doing so ,it has also shut its eye to the long term impact a deteriorating ecosystem can have on any individual or collective economy.