Stu­dent unions seek re­call of EIA draft

Pan-In­dia groups pe­ti­tion En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter

The Hindu - - NEWS - Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

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.

Haste ques­tioned

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.

Prakash Javadekar

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