Central Government Must Abstain From The Catastrophic EIA Amendments Move – SDPI

MK Faizy, national president of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) stated that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 by the central government, if implemented, will destablise the eco-system and environment of the country; and demanded the central government to abstain from its implementation without giving the stakeholders a chance to share their views.

EIA is mandatory for various projects including mines, infrastructure projects such as roads, highways, ports, harbours and airports; thermal power plants, dams, industries like electroplating and foundry units. First implemented in 1978, minor updates were made to EIA and the latest amendment passed was in 2006. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has now proposed amendments to the 2006 notification which are intended to dilute the restrictions in the process, that would result in serious environmental issues.

The notification was released on 23rd March 2020, right on the eve of nationwide lockdown without much publicity given to it except being uploaded on the website. This is blatant violation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, and the principle of Natural Justice.

Major amendments proposed in the notification are: 1. companies no longer need to have a compulsory public hearing; 2. companies need not submit compliance reports every six months, but annually; 3. reduction of time provided for submission of public response from 30 to 20 days during public hearings. The public hearing process has to be completed in 40 days instead of 45 days.

The proposal enables the companies to implement projects without the approval from the people or environmental organisations. This shall definitely end up in mass displacement of people along with irreversible environmental damage. The government gets empowered to take decisions without the involvement of people affected. The companies that would enjoy this exemption of first amendment include chemical industries that produce acids, paints, fertilisers, etc. which push out toxic wastes that are detrimental to the surrounding areas. These wastes cause contamination of water resources, air quality and soil quality.

The second amendment that relaxes the frequency of submitting compliance report help companies to cover up their lapses and non-compliance with ease. It would further debilitate the hold, if any, of the Environment Ministry on the companies on exploiting the natural resources. There are already proven examples of fake reports like Aarey forest issue and the Vedanta Pvt Ltd, Thoothukudi incident in which police fired and killed 13 protesters, even with the relatively strong clause in force.

The third proposal denies sufficient time to the people who would be affected by the project to prepare and present their views, comments and suggestions; turning such public hearings to a mockery. The time reduction would be affecting those people in areas where information is not easily accessible, the most.

Faizy urged that the central government should withdraw from hastily implementing the amendments, under the cover of Covid19 lockdown, and to give all stakeholders the chance to involve in the discussion and decision making, in compliance with the Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, and the principle of Natural Justice, in such a serious issue that might have very grievous adverse effects on the environment and the generations to come.