Student unions seek recall of EIA draft
Pan-India groups petition Environment Minister
Student unions from several universities and colleges from across India have petitioned Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to put the draft of the proposed Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2020 on hold.
The notification, which is open to public comments until June 30, is a proposed update to the existing EIA, 2006 that prescribes the procedure for industries to assess the ecological and environmental impact of their proposed activity and the mechanism whereby these would be assessed by expert committees appointed by the Ministry.
The new notification was officially made available online on March 23 and opened to public feedback until May 23.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of government presses and e-mails from individuals and organisations requesting more time, the deadline for comments was extended to June 30, a Press Information Bureau note said.
On the basis of this, several activists, researchers and former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh too wrote to Mr. Javadekar, questioning the haste with which the draft EIA was being processed.
A Right to Information (RTI) request by environmentalist Vikram Tongad, relevant portions of which were viewed by showed that senior officials in the Environment Ministry had themselves mooted extending the date for public feedback until August.
However, the documents show that Mr. Javadekar finally decided to accept public feedback only until June 30, and take expert reviews and consider the draft EIA for finalisation in August.
R.P. Gupta, the incumbent Environment Secretary, refused to comment or clarify on requests from
Hindu. The Hindu, The ‘In midst of pandemic’
“It is appalling that the Ministry has put out a draft notification for public comments in the midst of a global economic and public health emergency when there is restricted public movement, social distancing and challenges to everyday life activities,” says the representation led by the Tarang group of the Sonepatbased Ashoka University.
The signatories include the Aligarh Muslim University
Students Union, Ambedkar University Delhi Students Union, Environmental and Social Initiative Council, IISER (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research)-Bhopal, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, Jindal Global Law School, Student Council, and Nature Committee of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences.
Key points of dispute
The key points of dispute with the proposed draft are that it shortens the period of public consultation hearings to a maximum of 40 days, and reduces from 30 to 20 days the time provided for the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.
This would, in the petitioners view, hinder public access in places where information was not easily accessible or areas in which people weren’t familiar with the process.
Crucially, the draft also institutionalises “violation” projects.
Under a provision issued in 2017, it allows projects that have come up flouting environmental norms to be reviewed by a committee of experts and, if they so decreed, legalise the project after paying a fine. This, several environmentalists have argued, is seriously contrarian to several established principles of environment law.