Environmental Hot Potato
The Times of India Delhi|August 07, 2020
Environmental Hot Potato
Current EIA process is defunct. Parliament must legislate a new law based on sound science
Chandra Bhushan

The Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 has become a hot potato for the ministry of environment, forest & climate change (MoEF&CC). First, the Delhi high court overruled the ministry’s decision on the time limit for public comments and increased it till August 11. Then, in response to a formal complaint of the environment minister for spamming his email account, the cybercrime unit of the Delhi police invoked a terrorism-related law to shut down the website of young environmental campaigners, who were running an online campaign against the draft notification.

Though the police have now withdrawn the notice, the public uproar against the draft notification continues. Reportedly, lakhs of people have written to MoEF&CC to scrap the draft. So why is there such a hullabaloo around this subordinate legislation?

The draft EIA notification 2020 seeks to replace the existing law – the EIA notification 2006 – which grants Environment Clearance (EC) to projects. The major criticisms against the new draft are that it dilutes scope of public participation, legalises post-facto EC, removes the requirements of EIA study for several categories of projects, and weakens the provisions of reporting by companies. To understand the significance of these changes, let’s look at the 2006 law.

The EIA notification 2006 is possibly the most amended piece of environmental law. It has been amended 43 times, and at least 50 office memorandums (worth 350 pages) have been issued to tweak this law. Many of these changes have diluted the original version for some or other industry. The 2020 draft, in large part, brings together several of these revisions.

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August 07, 2020