Activists move online petition to withdraw ‘regressive’ changes to EIA

“In public interest, we, the public, demand the environment ministry to immediately withdraw the Draft EIA notification 2020,” the petition says.
Prakash Javadekar

New Delhi, May 7 : An online petition has been moved asking the Environment Ministry to withdraw the draft EIA notification, 2020 in the light of the Covid-2019 pandemic.

The petition for which 11,060 people have given their inputs, includes a letter to Environment Minister Prakash Jawadekar. The Environment Ministry has put out a draft EIA notification, 2020 on March 12, and sought comments from the public within sixty days from this date.

Since 1994, this notification has been an important tool for the legal assessment of social and environmental impacts of development projects and for organising public participation before the setting up or expansion of industrial and infrastructure projects in the country.

“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. This makes us deeply concerned about your priorities,” the petition said.

When this notification was released, the US, Europe and India were already looking at an alarming situation due to the combined effects of an economic slowdown and a massive burden on the public system. Soon after, most countries including India went into a lockdown which imposed severe restrictions on the movement of people in public places, it said.

“As you have probably realised, the shutting of many activities during this lockdown has improved the air quality in major cities and rivers are flowing relatively clean and free. This should show you that your system of regulating industrial and human activity has failed to protect our air and water from chemical toxins,” the letter to Jawadekar said.

The ministry is still giving approvals to more mining, more industries, more mega constructions and more highways. “These will destroy more forests, pollute more water sources, occupy more farm land, public space and coastal areas. You are doing this by using the EIA notification and other environmental laws,” it added.

The letter adds that for several affected people, the EIA regulation remains the only mechanism to ensure that project developers disclose the details of project design and impacts and that these projects are legally mandated to mitigate impacts and adhere to legal safeguards.

“Now you are proposing to make regressive changes to the EIA notification at a time when we simply cannot respond to your call for public comments. Is this democratic? Is this fair? Is this even humane to make us more anxious about our environmental futures when we are struggling to cope with this corona virus, this lockdown and the suffering of millions of our people?” the letter said.

“In public interest, we, the public, demand the environment ministry to immediately withdraw the Draft EIA notification 2020,” the petition says.

“We hope that when this COVID emergency is behind us all, the Environment Ministry will learn from the crisis and bring in amendments to the EIA notification that strengthen the role of environmental and social protection of all people and nature instead of justifying the present forms of harmful development,” according to the petition.

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