On 11th August, 2020, a group of 20 wildlife biologists/ ecologists submitted their comments and objections against the draft notification for Environmental Impact Assessment 2020, to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
The letter brings to fore incidents involving recent environmental catastrophes ranging from the Baghjan oil blow-out and locust swarms to the global impact of zoonoses such as COVID-19 and the importance and need for laws that ensure scientific and social evaluation of impacts of proposed projects.
Since its notification in 1994, the Environmental Impact Assessment has been used as a tool to monitor and assess detrimental impacts of projects on the environment and people. While the EIA notification has undergone several amendments over the last two decades, the current draft contravenes objectives of its parent legislation, the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, and is antithetical to the fundamental principles of environmental conservation itself.
The letter focuses on four major digressions from the tenets of conservation and environmental protection as seen in the draft notification:
- The overall dilution of the EIA process by increasing the number of ‘strategic’ projects which are exempted from the EIA process, exemption of others from public consultation, increasing the spatial threshold for projects that need EIAs, and downgrading projects that require assessments
- Regularisation of environmental violations by allowing for ex-post-facto clearance
- Disenfranchisement of public participation hence leaving potential impacted communities with no voice in the matter
- Easements in post-clearance compliance and monitoring by changing the frequency of reporting required and extending validity periods for selected projects
As per, the environmental performance index- a global ranking system that uses environment and sustainability parameters to determine the environmental performance of 180 countries, India ranked 179thin its air quality and ozone exposure in the latest assessment in 2020 (https://epi.yale.edu/epi-results/2020/component/epi). Under such circumstances, and keeping in mind the utmost need for attention to environment and conservation, we urge the MoEFCC to revoke the Draft Notification 2020.
A copy of the letter submitted to the MoEFCC has been attached.