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About 500 researchers, scientists demand new EIA proposal | India News

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MANGALURU: About 500 academics, scientists and researchers, have expressed deep concern regarding India’s sustainable future in the light of the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 (hereafter draft notification), recently proposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
They have urged the MoEF&CC to withdraw the draft notification and, instead, strengthen the existing EIA notification with a new proposal, following wider and more inclusive public consultation, preferably after the ongoing pandemic subsides.
Though many had sent feedback and comments on the document by August 11, limited circulation and publicity of the draft notification compounded by a lack of its availability in most Indian languages hindered true and inclusive public participation. The union government is currently restrained by Karnataka High Court from publishing the final draft till September 7.
They have stated that the draft notification does not adhere to the fundamental objectives of its parent legislation, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and does not align with the nation’s commitments under various international agreements and conventions.
Some of the concerns raised are that the draft notification legitimises ex post facto environmental clearances and encourages industries with no prior clearance to commence operations and eventually get regularized by paying a penalty amount even after causing irreversible damage to the environment. It mandates the baseline data collection period to prepare an EIA report for all projects as only one season (except for river valley projects). This, they said, is severely inadequate for evaluating the seasonal impact of the project on the environment. The draft has included solar thermal power plants, extraction of ordinary earth for linear projects, and maintenance dredging in the list of projects that do not require prior environmental clearances. Such exemptions may negatively affect existing terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, hamper wildlife movement and fragment habitats when carried out on large scales.
The draft notification reclassifies many potentially ecosystem-damaging and even some highly polluting industries as ‘B2’ category, thereby exempting them from scoping and public consultations and allowing approval based on Environmental Management Plan Report instead of EIA Report. The draft Exempts ‘A’ and ‘B1’ category projects, including many projects listed in Red Category 7 (such as thermal power plants from having to conduct public hearings for modernisation and expansions below 50% and reduces the minimum notice period for furnishing a public response from an already insufficient 30 days to 20 days. It allows only project proponents and government authorities to officially report cognizance of violations and non-compliance of conditions, curbing the rights of any other concerned or affected person; and dilutes post-clearance monitoring by reducing the mandatory compliance report submission by project proponents from half-yearly to yearly.

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